President Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia told a Senate panel Wednesday he would encourage the State Department to look into the increasing number of Saudi nationals who’ve vanished from America after becoming the subjects of criminal investigations there.
Retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, the nominee for the post, made the statement during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and in response to a question from Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat whose state has seen several Saudi suspects flee justice, the Oregonian reported.
“I’m surprised the State Department hasn’t already investigated this. Would you encourage the State Department to investigate this issue, to get to the bottom of it?” Merkley asked Abizaid.
Abizaid responded: “Senator, if you confirm me, I will encourage them to do so.”
The Oregonian has brought to the fore several cases in and outside of Oregon in which Saudi nationals studying in the U.S. were accused of crimes but disappeared before they could be prosecuted. The newspaper also discovered instances in which the Saudi government appeared to have helped those students flee.
“Are you as disturbed as I am that Saudi nationals have a get-out-of-jail- free card that allows them to commit abuses against children, manslaughter, rape and have no accountability?” Merkley asked, according to The Oregonian.
Abizaid responded: “I think there has to be complete accountability for any government and their citizens living abroad, and that includes respecting the laws of the host nation.”
Merkley introduced a bill in January to urge the State Department to ask the Kingdom to turn over any of its citizens accused of crimes in the U.S. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia do not have an extradition treaty.