COMOX VALLEY, B.C. — Mounties on Vancouver Island say a father who is alleged to have abducted his four children and fled to the Middle East has contacted investigators and assured them the kids are safe.
Comox Valley RCMP said Saren Azer recently reached out to police and answered many of the investigators' questions. Discussions are ongoing as to how RCMP will confirm the kids' safety, said Cpl. Janelle Shoihet.
Shoihet said the investigation is "very active and ongoing," but she was unable to provide additional details.
"This investigation remains a priority for the Comox Valley RCMP and we are hopeful that this dialogue will continue, and ultimately lead to a successful resolution," she said in an email.
A Canadawide warrant was issued for the well-known doctor of Iranian descent last August after he failed to return to Canada with the two girls and two boys, who range in age from four to 11.
Alison Azer believes her ex-husband is in Iran and contends his background with political groups that support the Kurdish independence movement means he and her children are not safe in the country. His past affiliation with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran could be considered treason, she said.
"I think that it's a positive step that he's reached out to authorities," she said. "He is an international fugitive, and he's in a country where the signs are that increasingly they are not very happy to have him there because of his political history."
She said she's waiting to see how his conversations with the RCMP unfold and she has promised all along to do what she can to ease his re-entry to Canada.
"That does not take away from the fact that what he's done, in addition to being utterly cruel, both to me and my family here, and also to our children, is an illegal act. There have to be consequences for that.
"But the safest place for him is actually back in Canada, not in Iran, where he could be picked up at any point."
The Canadian warrant for Saren Azer's arrest alleges he abducted his children in contravention of a custody order. Comox Valley RCMP have said they are working with provincial and federal Mounties and have communicated extensively with international law enforcement partners.
Alison Azer, who has been fighting tirelessly for her kids' return, said she met last month with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in Ottawa.
"(Trudeau) confirmed that he would now take direct involvement in my kids and the safe resolution. The file's on his desk," she said.
"I'm grateful, first of all. But I can think of a lot of other reasons why I would've liked to have met the prime minister, other than being across from him so that he could see the pain in my eyes that I've been separated from my children, and they've been separated from me."
The mother said her youngest son, Meitan, turned four on Wednesday. She said the day felt like the longest she's had in months, as she waited with a faint hope that her phone would ring.
"I just held out hope that Saren would have some mercy, and allow the children to talk with me," she said, her voice shaking. "I guess I should've known better."
— By Laura Kane in Vancouver