Saudis ‘helped citizen in Oregon hit-and-run case flee US’

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Saudis 'helped citizen in Oregon hit-and-run case flee US'

Image copyright Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department
Image caption Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah was allegedly involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Portland in 2016

A Saudi student accused of killing a teenager in a hit-and-run escaped justice with help from Saudi Arabia, US officials reportedly suspect.

Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, 21, fled the US last year, and Saudi officials may have helped him obtain an illegal passport, the Oregonian reported.

He is accused of killing Fallon Smart, 15, in Portland, Oregon, in 2016.

The Saudi government only recently informed US officials of his return home, according to the Oregonian.

Mr Noorah faces first-degree manslaughter – with a minimum sentence of 10 years – as well as hit-and-run, reckless endangerment and reckless driving charges in the US.

On 10 June 2017, with two weeks until his trial, Mr Noorah removed his tracking device and disappeared, police say.

Federal officials told the Oregonian they believe he was probably taken out of the country on a private plane.

"We're doing everything we can to get him back," Eric Wahlstrom, a supervisory deputy US Marshal in Oregon, said.

After Mr Noorah's disappearance, US investigators searched domestic and international flights, but found no clues to his whereabouts.

This summer, Saudi officials informed the US that Mr Noorah had returned to the kingdom over a year ago, on 17 June, according to the Oregonian.

They did not provide additional details to US officials.

The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, so the chances of Mr Noorah facing US justice are low.

Image copyright Facebook/Fallon Smart
Image caption Fallon Smart was a sophomore in high school when she was killed in the accident

In August 2016, Mr Noorah was allegedly driving a gold Lexus that fatally struck Ms Smart, the newspaper reported.

He was speeding through a crossing at up to 60mph (96km/h), police said. The teenager died at the scene.

Mr Noorah was arrested by Multnomah County officers after he returned to the scene of the accident.

He had been living in Portland as a student on a scholarship since 2014, with the Saudi government paying him a $1,800 (£1,400) stipend each month, the Oregonian reported.

The Saudi consulate also gave Mr Noorah the $100,000 he needed to post bail after his arrest in September 2016, according to records viewed by the paper.

The Saudi government has previously posted bail – even as high as $2m – for its nationals charged with crimes in the US.

Mr Noorah had turned in his passport and worn an ankle monitoring cuff after his release, but he was allowed to continue attending his classes at Portland Community College.

The day he vanished, he was reportedly picked up from campus by a black car.

The US Marshals Service and US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

The case follows an international uproar over the killing of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The US Senate blamed the Saudi crown prince for ordering Mr Khashoggi's killing and criticised President Donald Trump's pro-Riyadh stance.

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