The father of a teenager who died when she was hit by a speeding car says President Joe Biden will be making a big mistake if he strikes a deal for oil in Saudi Arabia next week without demanding the return of the student charged in her death.
Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah was charged with first-degree manslaughter and felony hit-and-run in 2016 after 15-year-old Fallon Smart was killed in Oregon.
But he fled the country a year later after the Saudi consulate paid $100,000 to free him on bail.
A string of similar cases has led to accusations that the Saudi government is helping its citizens flee justice.
Fallon’s father Seth Smart, 40, told DailyMail.com that Biden should raise the case of his daughter during his high-profile trip to Saudi city of Jeddah.
‘You know, dealing with the Kingdom of Saudi … if you’re gonna make a deal with them, it’s making a deal with the devil. They do not care about human rights,’ he said.
‘I mean, we’ve we’ve all heard of Jamal Khashoggi. And they don’t respect the freedom freedom of the press.
‘They don’t respect our due process. They don’t respect the lives of our citizens.
‘So I think any any deal he makes that doesn’t explicitly try to curb that or address it is going to be a bad deal.’
Fallon Smith was killed as she crossed the road in Portland, Oregon, weeks before her 16th birthday in 2016. A Saudi student was charged with first-degree manslaughter and hit-and-run
Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah was released on $100,000 bail but went missing in 2017. He is believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia with a new passport on a private jet
Seth Smart (left) said President Biden was in danger of making a ‘deal with the devil’ on his trip to Saudi Arabia if he did not raise the cases of suspects who had fled the U.S. courts
Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist, was murdered by Saudi officials at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Within a month the CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the hit.
Biden has made clear his discomfort at any meeting with the crown prince, but is under pressure to mend relations with Saudi Arabia in order to increase global oil supplies and bring down the price of gas for Americans struggling with crippling inflation.
But as well as the high-profile cases like Khashoggi, there are families like the Smarts who bear the scars too.
Fallon was killed by a speeding driver weeks before her 16th birthday as she crossed the street in Portland. Police said she was hit when a gold Lexus swerved around traffic that has stopped to let the girl cross.
After Noorah’s arrest, the Saudi consulate hired private defense attorneys who secured his release on bail.
Smart said he was told that Noorah disappeared the following year when the county deputy supposed to be monitoring his location went on vacation.
The U.S. Marshals Service released an image of a black SUV it said drove Noorah to a gravel yard in Portland, where he removed an ankle monitor.
Biden will visit Saudi Arabia next week. He has privately chafed at plans to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accused by US intelligence agencies of ordering the assassination of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi
Fallon’s family say they have been deprived justice and a chance to find out exactly what happened on the day she was killed by a car as she crossed the street
Noorah is believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia with a new passport on a private plane.
The Oregonian newspaper found four more cases of students who disappeared in similar circumstances, and another case in Ohio.
Smart said the disappearance meant he would likely never find out the truth behind his daughter’s death.
‘It’s tragic for me and my family and for all the other victims too,’ he said.
‘All I wanted to see was some some measure of justice or even, you know, having a trial.
‘It just came out recently in the police report that there were even ideas that maybe Noorah wasn’t even the driver of the car … after the car fled that they flipped seats, and he came back maybe to protect someone else who was younger or from a more powerful family
‘I don’t know, but I won’t get any of those questions answered ever because there’s not going to be a trial.
‘It’s just it’s a really frustrating place to be as a father and you know, as a family member and just as a victim, like no sense of justice. There’s no closure.
‘How do I tell my 11-year-old to follow the rules, then things will turn out all right. I don’t know.
Biden is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on July 15.
In this Aug. 22, 2016 file photo, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah appears during his arraignment in a Portland, Ore. court. The government of Saudi Arabia posted his bail. Federal law enforcement officials believe the Saudi government then helped him escape the country
Saudi officials are insistent that he meets with MBS. But Biden has pushed back on the idea of a very public meeting, according to multiple sources, and wants a more discreet encounter on the sidelines of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
He is under pressure to both strike an oil deal that would help American consumers, but also not allow the Saudi government to get away with its poor human rights record.
Smart said it was about more than abstract ideas of human rights for his family.
‘If he makes a deal, and there’s no mention of trying to stop it from happening again, and no mention of trying to bring these fugitives to justice it’s gonna … it’s gonna more hurt to my family,’ he said.
But doesn’t hold out much hope that anything will change five years after the suspect’s disappearance.
‘There’s not a lot of political will,’ he said.
‘What do you think President Biden cares more about – his approval rating.
‘And what’s gonna fix that? Gas prices going down.
‘He’s gonna do whatever it takes.’