Officers with the Jordanian Family Protection Unit have reunited a missing boy with his mother and sisters after a six-week ordeal during which the boy’s father kept him in hiding.
Dean Sides of St. Albans, the boy’s grandfather, said Wednesday he doesn’t know what led Jordanian authorities to the discovery of 9-year-old Ahmed Alsaleh and his father, Mohammad Alsaleh, but that everyone on Sides’ side of the family is relieved Ahmed has been found.
Mohammad, during an exchange with the Bangor Daily News through an Internet chat room on Wednesday, said he made the decision willingly to surrender Ahmed to the Family Protection Unit late Tuesday on the condition that they put the children and their mother in a safe house.
“Last night they decided to bring all the kids back under the protection of the police in a safe house,” said Mohammad.
Sides said his wife, Geneva, and daughter, Heidi Sides Alsaleh, who is the boy’s mother, told him today that the Jordanian Family Protection Unit recovered the boy late Tuesday night and reunited him with his mother, two younger sisters and grandmother.
The family had been living in an apartment in Jordan’s capital city of Amman during the search for Ahmed. Heidi Sides Alsaleh could not be reached for comment Wednesday because her communications are restricted while she’s in the safe house.
Dean Sides said that while his wife, Heidi and the three children are confined to a safe house, Mohammad Alsaleh is “free to roam the streets.”
“Heidi doesn’t have any freedom, and he’s out riding the street doing what he wants to do,” said Sides. “They call it a safe house, but I call it a prison. Everything is locked down.”
Mohammad said there is no reason why he should be detained because he believes Jordanian authorities broke protocol and created the situation in the first place.
What might happen next in this custody battle that started in May 2009 when Mohammad took the children to Jordan without Heidi’s knowledge is unclear. Jordanian law prevents Heidi from taking the children out of the country as long as Mohammad wants visitation rights. Both Mohammad and Heidi have told the Bangor Daily News that they are pushing their cases through the Jordanian court system.
Dean Sides said young Ahmed was in a state of mild shock when he was reunited with his family.
“Geneva said he was kind of nonresponsive,” said Dean Sides, who is in St. Albans temporarily to attend to some business matters. “She said you see on his face that he was scared.” Ahmed since has warmed up and is playing vigorously with his sisters, Manar, 5, and Sarah, 4, Sides said.
Mohammad said he saw his daughters only briefly and spent most of his time during a visit to the safe house Wednesday with Heidi. Mohammad told the Bangor Daily News this week that he wanted a one-on-one discussion with his wife so they could try to resolve the situation outside the courts.
“It was a good start, but not enough,” said Mohammad. “I’m glad [Ahmed] got to be with his sisters and sad because I know he really wanted to be with me, too, and the rest of his family.”