March 08, 2023

Wyden Secures Pledge From State Department To Hold Accountable Saudi Officials Involved In Aiding Accused Criminals Who Fled American Justice; Lifts Hold on Michael Ratney to Serve as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Washington, D.C. –. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today announced he will lift his hold on Michael Ratney, the nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, after securing new commitments from the State Department to revoke the visas of foreign officials involved in assisting foreign nationals in evading prosecution or fleeing the U.S. justice system.

Following reporting by The Oregonian that revealed the Saudi regime has systematically helped its citizens flee the United States after being accused of violent crimes, Wyden pressed the executive branch to win justice for the victims of these crimes, including the first-degree manslaughter of Portland teenager Fallon Smart. The Oregonian first reported that the man accused of killing Smart, Saudi national Abdulrahman Noorah, fled the country with the assistance of the Saudi government. 

Wyden delayed Ratney’s nomination to ensure the executive branch would take concrete steps to prevent foreign governments from obstructing the U.S. justice system. The State Department agreed to issue a new policy that would revoke visas “in cases where a foreign official has provided concerning forms of assistance to foreign nationals in evading prosecution in the United States by absconding from the United States,” it wrote to Wyden.

“There is no way to bring Fallon back to her family and no punishment that will heal the suffering caused by her death, or the many others hurt by foreign nationals who fled the country after being charged with violent crimes,” Wyden said. “But the “Fallon Smart” rule announced today sends a strong message that there is no place in our country for foreign officials who help criminal suspects evade the law. I want to thank Secretary Blinken for agreeing to take concrete actions that will deter other foreign officials from assisting fugitives on American soil. I plan to closely watch the department’s implementation of the new policy to ensure there is real accountability for the foreign officials who prevented justice from being carried out in the manslaughter of Fallon Smart and other awful crimes across our country.”

Wyden has led the fight to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for undermining the rule of law around the world, including securing the release of an unclassified report on Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


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