May 22, 2015
A Maryland mother fighting for years to get her kidnapped son back to the United States. Eslam Chebbi, 8, was abducted by his father and taken to Tunisia in 2011.
Meghan McCorkell spoke with his mother about new hopes he can return home.
It’s been nearly a year since Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi was able to see her son inside a Tunisian courtroom after he was abducted by his own father.
In October of 2011, Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi’s two children were on a scheduled weekend visit with her ex-husband when she got a devastating phone call.
“It was the worst phone call of my life–that he had the children, they were in Tunisia and I’d never see them again,” said Johnson-Chebbi.
Her ex-husband is now on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for parental abductions.
Johnson-Chebbi has won custody of her kids in both the U.S. and Tunisia. She managed to bring her daughter, Zainab, home last year. But her son, Eslam, remains with his father.
Now she believes President Barack Obama might be able to help.
On Thursday, the president met for the first time with the newly elected leader of Tunisia in the Oval Office.
“I indicated to the president my intention to designate Tunisia as a major non NATO ally of the United States,” President Obama said.
Johnson-Chebbi hopes her son’s case may have been part of the discussion.
“I would hope that he would express his concern as a father for the rights of a son to be home with the family that he was torn away from,” she said.
Maryland lawmakers have also been pushing to reunite the family.
“Child abduction cases are heartbreaking. They’re heartbreaking,” said Senator Ben Cardin, (D) Maryland.
Now, with Eslam’s ninth birthday just days away, Johnson-Chebbi has a message for him:
“His sister and I and his grandparents and all of his family pray for him and we think about him and we talk about him and his spirit is alive in ours every moment of every day,” said Johnson-Chebbi.
And she hopes he will spend his next birthday here at home.
Both senators Cardin and Mikulski have written letters to the Tunisian president, asking him to intervene in the case.
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