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Family of teen killed in crash involving US diplomat claims Trump admin 'abused its power'

Posted at 4:24 AM, Nov 12, 2019

The grieving family of the British teenager who was killed in a motorcycle crash involving a US diplomat's wife has criticized both the US and UK governments for their handling of the incident, accusing the Trump administration of abusing its power.

In an interview with CNN's Hala Gorani, family spokesperson Radd Seiger explained why Harry Dunn's parents were contemplating legal action against the Trump administration and Anne Sacoolas -- the American woman involved in the crash.

Dunn, 19, died in August after being knocked from his motorcycle outside a Royal Air Force station in central England that is controlled by the US Air Force. British police say he was struck by a vehicle that was traveling on the wrong side of the road.

Sacoolas, who has acknowledged driving the car, left the UK three weeks after the collision, Northamptonshire Police say, claiming diplomatic immunity. She has since apologized via her attorney for the "tragic mistake."

"There is no dispute as to what happened," Sacoolas' legal representative Amy Jeffress said last month. "Anne was driving on the wrong side of the road and had no time to react when she saw the motorbike approaching - the crash happened too fast."

Dunn's family now want Sacoolas to return to the UK to face the legal system, either voluntarily or through extradition.

Dunn's father was in the US to meet lawyers and discuss plans to file two lawsuits, Seiger told CNN."The first claim is against Mrs. Sacoolas herself, the driver, for civil damages and compensation," he said. "The second thing is a claim against the Trump administration.

"It's difficult to overstate the extent to which the administration abused its power here by recalling the Sacoolas family back to the United States after the collision. So that will be a complete exposure of this misconduct so that the whole world can see the extent to which there was lawless activity."

According to Jeffress, the Sacoolas family left the United Kingdom "after they and the U.S. authorities determined that it would be difficult for the couple and their children to remain in the small Croughton community under these tragic circumstances."

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on the Dunns' claim. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats and their family members are typically immune from prosecution in their host country. The US State Department told CNN last month that diplomatic immunity is "rarely waived."

'Trump comments totally disingenuous'

Dunn's parents met US President Trump last month, an encounter which left them feeling as if they had been "taken advantage of," Seiger said in the immediate aftermath of the meeting, as Trump presented them with an unexpected offer to meet Sacoolas, whom he said was waiting in the next room.

Trump had described the White House meeting as "beautiful," telling reporters: "Unfortunately they wanted to meet with her, and unfortunately when we had everyone together, they decided not to meet."

Seiger told CNN that Trump's account of what had happened in the White House was "totally disingenuous," adding: "If he had given us the opportunity to consider whether we wanted to meet Mrs. Sacoolas that day, we would have considered it. But to invite us down on a pretence is ridiculous.

"The family is always open to dialogue with anybody, but if there is a meeting with Mrs. Sacoolas as part of the restorative justice system we have in the UK, it will be back in the UK as part of that process," he said.

The family has already said it will also launch legal action against the UK Foreign Office, arguing that the UK government's"decision to advise Northamptonshire Police that the driver had the benefit of diplomatic immunity was unlawful," according to Seiger

According to UK media, the Foreign Office will "oppose and seek costs" for any judicial review brought.

"They do not have a legal leg to stand on in the defense to this family's claim," Seiger said of the UK government.

"Shame on them for putting them through this legal battle, but it's clear it's going to end up in court, in a few months' time at the High Court in London. If that's what they want, that's what the family are prepared to do."

In a statement, a Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN: "We have deep sympathy for Harry's family. We have done and will continue to do everything we properly can to ensure that justice is done.

"As the Foreign Secretary set out in Parliament, the individual involved had diplomatic immunity whilst in the country under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told lawmakers in the House of Commons last month that the government knew Sacoolas would leave England, one of the reasons the family says it wants to launch legal action. A request by UK police that Sacoolas'diplomatic immunity be waived was rejected.

Dunn's father, Tim, said he wanted the "truth" from the Foreign Office, to know the "reasons why they decided that Anne should go back."

"I want to see the evidence, I want them to tell me why they thought it was right that the wife of a so-called diplomat was allowed to leave the country after killing my son," he added.

Harry's mother, Charlotte Charles, and his twin brother, Niall, were not in the US on this latest trip because "grief is creeping onto them," Tim Dunn continued.

"This has really taken a toll on us as a family, and we're trying our hardest to get the answers we need so we can start to grieve properly."