Sens. Wyden and Merkley push to stop Saudi Arabia from aiding fugitives

Sens. Wyden and Merkley push to stop Saudi Arabia from aiding fugitives


By:  Lincoln Graves

Oregon's U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley say President Donald Trump must do more to stop Saudi Arabia from helping Saudi fugitives escape the U.S. criminal justice system.

In a release Friday, both senators shared details of a newly declassified FBI document. In the document, the FBI concludes the Saudi government "almost certainly" helps U.S.-based Saudi citizens flee to avoid legal issues.

There are numerous examples of such cases across the country, but Wyden and Merkley have paid close attention to the case of Fallon Smart.

Smart was hit and killed by a driver in Southeast Portland in 2016. The suspect, Abdulrahman Noorah, was a Saudi citizen living in Portland at the time. Noorah faced charges and his case was moving through the legal system, but in 2017, Noorah removed his monitoring bracelet and disappeared before his trial. Officials have long speculated that the Saudi government helped Noorah flee. However, the FBI document erases all doubts for Wyden.

"What's happened is the FBI has essentially told me the Saudis have lied," Wyden said Friday.

According to the document, Saudi Arabian officials "perceive the embarrassment of Saudi citizens enduring the U.S. judicial process is greater than the embarrassment of the United States learning the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) surreptitiously removes citizens with legal problems from the United States."

The document goes on to say that "KSA officials are unlikely to alter this practice in the near term unless the U.S. Government directly addresses this issue with the KSA and ties U.S. cooperation on KSA priorities to ceasing this activity."

"I'm asking the president, now that we have the FBI hard evidence that the Saudis have been involved in this, to say, look, the Saudis are supposed to be our friends and that's a good thing, but they're not above the law," Wyden said.

Wyden and Merkley helped pass the Saudi Fugitives Declassification Act, which became law in December. That law allowed for the FBI document to be declassified and released.