BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Maryland woman is half a world away, trying to get her two children back. The law is on her side, but realities on the ground in Tunisia have left her in limbo.
Alex DeMetrick has new details in the case.
Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi says the abduction of her children by her former husband has left her feeling like a prisoner in Tunisia.
The fires of revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab Spring had barely cooled in 2011 when a divorced father from Prince George’s County brought his young son and daughter there. They passed through airport screening at Dulles in November 2011 and never came back.
The children’s mother traveled to Tunisia the following year.
“It is incredibly frustrating and it is absolutely a case at this point of three Americans being held against their will,” Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi said.
Faical Chebbi was born in Tunisia and is wanted by the FBI for parental kidnapping. The children, now aged five and seven, have been ordered by not just U.S. courts but Tunisian courts to be returned.
“The police and the prosecutor have not completed the process of enforcement for eight months now,” Johnson-Chebbi said.
“Child abduction cases are heartbreaking. They’re heartbreaking,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin.
Cardin met with Tunisia’s prime minister to press for the children’s return.
“Tunisia is currently trying to establish itself as a country that respects the rule of law. One way to do that is by honoring court orders,” Cardin said.
Just prior to Friday’s meeting, Senator Barbara Mikulski asked the White House to press the abduction case with Tunisia’s leader. It’s not known if that happened.
Meanwhile, in Tunisia, a legal limbo drags on. The courts have allowed 5-year-old Zainab to stay with her mother, but not return to the United States. Seven-year-old Eslam is with his father.
“She misses her brother dearly and it affects her psychologically. I see him on occasion when he practices soccer. I’m able to watch him through a fence at the soccer field,” Johnson-Chebbi said.
There is a treaty which aids in the return of abducted children. Tunisia has never signed it.
The State Department says there are a thousand cases involving U.S. children being abducted by a parent to a foreign country, including six more in Maryland.
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