From The National Post
Saudi husband demands $300K for wife’s freedom
Marian Scott, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009
Courtesy Durocher Family Nathalie Morin’s husband has refused to give her permission to return to Canada, demanding $300,000 for the release of his three children and wife.
The common-law husband of a Quebec woman is demanding $300,000 for the release of his three children and wife, who swore in an affidavit that she has been held against her will in Saudi Arabia since 2005.
Samir Said Ramthi Al Bishi met with Canadian officials in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 22, at which time he demanded the cash in exchange for the release of his wife, Nathalie Morin, 25, a Longueuil woman and mother to the couple’s three children, ages 7, 3, and 11 months.
Canadian officials responded by saying Mr. Al Bishi’s demand is legal under Saudi law, so “we cannot take sides and will continue to consider the situation of Mrs. Morin and her three children as a private, family matter,” consular official Nathalie Tenorio-Roy told Ms. Morin’s mother, Johanne Durocher, in an email on Oct. 22.
“I’m completely scandalized that the government would pass on this demand to me,” said Ms. Durocher, who compared Mr. Al Bishi’s request for cash to a ransom demand. “You don’t buy your children,” she added.
Ms. Durocher said she has no intention of negotiating a payment for her daughter’s return, and has no money to do so anyway.
Meanwhile, information obtained by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde under freedom of information reveals that Canadian consular officials suggested Ms. Morin’s children might be better off staying in Saudi Arabia without her.
“Maybe we will get the children to Canada — to be with their high-school-educated, 22-year-old mother,” an embassy official wrote in a memo on Oct. 19, 2006.
In another memo, sent the previous day, the official wrote: “We have higher priorities and I have spoken with Nathalie — not her priority either.”
Ms. Durocher rejected the official’s claim that bringing her children back to Canada was not a priority for Ms. Morin.
Her daughter might have told embassy officials she was prepared to leave her children in Saudi Arabia because she was demoralized from enduring beatings and not being allowed to leave the house, Ms. Durocher said.
But Ms. Durocher said that Ms. Morin, who visited Montreal for one month in 2006 without her children, went back to Saudi Arabia because she couldn’t bear being away from them.
Ms. Morin’s Montreal lawyer, Julius Grey, said he is studying the documents obtained under freedom of information to determine whether she has grounds to sue the government.
Ms. Morin met Mr. Al Bishi in 2001 in Montreal, where he was living illegally. He was deported in 2002, soon after she had a child by him. She moved to Saudi Arabia in 2005 after two visits there.
Gar Pardy, a former Canadian ambassador and expert on consular matters in Ottawa, called on the government to take a stronger stance on Ms. Morin’s behalf.
“The government has to stay involved by pushing the Saudis to do something appropriate,” he said.
Natalie Sarafian, press attache to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, noted that when Canadians leave Canadian territory, they are subject to foreign laws.
“Minister Cannon’s greatest wish is that this matter is settled and we are doing everything we can to enable this,” she said.
Ms. Sarafian added that Mr. Cannon met with Saudi Arabia’s Commission on Human Rights and raised the Morin case with his Saudi counterpart on Saturday during a visit to the Middle East.