Woman gets 10 years in grandsons' abduction

Boys, 5 and 2, taken from father, still in Egypt

January 22, 2003|By Luke Tracy | Luke Tracy,SUN STAFF

Afaf Nassar Khalifa, wife of a wealthy Egyptian businessman, wept softly in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court yesterday as she was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in the kidnapping of her grandsons Adam and Jason Shannon to Egypt, where they remain with their mother.

Adam, 5, and Jason, 2, were taken to Egypt by Kalifa and the boys' mother, Nermeen Shannon, in August 2001 during a court-approved unsupervised visit that was supposed to have lasted a week, according to the boys' father, Michael Shannon of Millersville. Shannon, who had legal custody of the boys, testified that he has not seen them since.

"We're pleased with the judge's verdict and the sentence," said Assistant State's Attorney Laura Kiessling, the prosecutor in the case, adding that she hoped it would lead to the boys' return.

Shannon said he hopes that Khalifa's sentence would give him leverage to win the boys' return, a hope clearly shared by the state's attorney's office and Judge Nancy Davis.

"If Adam returns, there might be room to reduce the sentence," the judge said during sentencing.

After the verdict, Shannon said, "My boys are a little bit closer to home than they were yesterday. It used to be 5,000 miles, now it feels like five."

Khalifa's attorney, William C. Brennan, declined to comment on the verdict pending appeal.

State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said that at any given time, her agency is aware of about 1,000 open cases of American children having been abducted abroad by parents who are foreign nationals.

The State Department can lobby foreign officials on behalf of an American parent whose child has been abducted, she said, but the U.S. government has no power to enforce court custody orders abroad.

Shannon testified that Khalifa - an Egyptian citizen whose family has a home in San Diego but who visited her grandchildren in Millersville - swore to him "on the Quran, her children's eyeballs and her family's health," that she and her daughter would have the boys back at the appointed time after visiting relatives in New York.

When the boys weren't returned to Shannon at the specified time, he went to his ex-wife's residence in Baltimore County to find it empty, he testified.

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