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US announces new visa restriction policy for those who have assisted fugitives


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday announced a new visa restriction policy targeting foreign government officials and agents who assist fugitives in evading the U.S. justice system.

The Fallon Smart policy is named after a 15-year-old who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Oregon in 2016, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the statement, adding that the foreign national accused of causing Smart’s death fled the United States to avoid being tried for manslaughter.

“The Department of State is committed to deterring and promoting accountability for extraordinary foreign government involvement in aiding fugitives to evade the U.S. justice system,” Blinken said in the statement.

The Oregonian newspaper reported in 2018 that the man accused in Smart’s death, a Saudi Arabian national, likely fled the country with the assistance of the Saudi government.

The State Department did not immediately reply to questions on whether the new policy was aimed at specific countries or if anyone had yet been targeted under it.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon in March said he would lift his hold on the nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Michael Ratney, after commitments from the State Department on revoking visas of foreign nationals assisting those evading prosecution or fleeing the U.S. justice system.

“Today’s announcement of the ‘Fallon Smart Policy’ enshrines in U.S. policy the principle that there can be no room in America for foreign officials who help criminal suspects dodge the law,” Wyden said on Wednesday.

“The loss of Fallon to her family and loved ones can never be erased, but this new State Department policy named for this young Portlander killed by a foreign national establishes genuine accountability for any foreign official who assists fugitives fleeing U.S. justice.”

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Costas Pitas Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

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