A senior US senator has called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to clarify if Saudi Arabia helped a citizen of that country flee the US before his manslaughter trial.
In a letter on Friday, Senator Ron Wyden expressed strong concern over a local media report that said the Saudi government may have issued a new passport to its citizen, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, in order to help him leave the US and escape justice over a hit-and-run killing in the state of Oregon.
The Saudi student was accused of killing 15-year-old Fallon Smart, and was facing a 10-year jail term if found guilty of manslaughter charges.
In a report last week, the Oregonian newspaper said US investigators believe Noorah, who was released on bail, fled the country in June last year on a private jet using a Saudi-issued passport under a different name.
Wyden said the claims were “shocking”.
The allegations, in the wake of the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October, “suggest a brazen pattern of disregard for the law and abuse of diplomatic privileges”, said Wyden.
“These claims must be thoroughly investigated. If they are accurate they would require significant restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic privileges and call into question the future of America’s bilateral relationship with the Saudis,” he added.
The Oregonian newspaper said it was Saudi authorities who had provided Noorah the $100,000 he needed to post bail.
When the 21-year-old Portland Community College student was released, his passport was confiscated and he was required to wear an electronic bracelet on his ankle, the daily said.
But in June last year, just two weeks before his trial, Noorah cut the tracking device and disappeared.
He arrived in Saudi Arabia seven days later.
But the Saudi government only informed the US of Noorah’s return to the country more than a year later, in July, the Oregonian said.
The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, which means that the chances of Noorah facing justice in the US is low.
Saudi Arabia has come under increased scrutiny from the US Senate following Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi officials inside the kingdom’s consulate.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed a resolution accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the murder, and called for an end to US military support for a Riyad-led war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia denounced the resolution as “blatant interference”.