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Mother of Marine veteran kidnapped in Syria accuses a senior US official of ‘stalling’ her son’s release

The mother of a Marine veteran who was taken hostage while working as a freelance journalist in Syria says she believes a senior government official is standing between her son and his freedom.

Debra Tice spoke Monday at the National Press Club, also announcing the second annual fundraiser night to raise awareness of her son, Austin Tice, after more than seven years of detention in Syria.

“Apparently, somewhere in the chain, there is a senior U.S. government official who is hesitating or stalling,” Debra Tice said Monday. “There is no possible way for me to understand why anyone would defy the president’s will and choose to leave our beloved son, who put his life on the line serving this country three tours as a Marine Corps officer, waiting in captivity instead of taking the necessary steps to get this critical discussion underway.”

Debra Tice says she does not know the identity of the official nor the person’s reasons for stalling work on her son’s release, but asked “whoever you are, stand down or stand up for Austin.”

“I would love to say more,” she said. “Believe me, I would love to say more. I think having a wall between me and knowing is a safety measure.”

Austin Tice was taken in August 2012 near Damascus, Syria. Debra Tice traveled to Syria in 2014 to try and find more information about who took her son, why and how she and her family could get him released.

She said in the press club Monday that while in Syria for more than two months she reached out to multiple times to the Syrian government but was told through intermediaries that officials would only meet with a similarly ranked U.S. official to discuss her son’s captivity.

“We believe this is quite possibly the simplest request that could be made in Austin’s situation,” Debra Tice said.

“Next month it will be six years that we’ve had an open door with the Syrian government,” she said. “Six years since the parents have been saying, ‘what about that open door?’ What about that open door? What about that open door? It’s appalling.”

Austin Tice, 38, is a veteran Marine Corps officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the Marine Corps he attended Georgetown Law School. But in February 2012, his second year of law school, he decided to spend his summer in Syria to report what was happening with the war and ensuing refugee crisis.

Photographs he took of Syrian refugees on are on display at the National Press Club.

He took photos and wrote for various outlets as a freelancer throughout most of the summer in 2012 and was on his way home when he was captured. Little public information has been disclosed about who took Austin Tice, or why and what they want.

In hostage cases such as Austin Tice’s there are a number of reasons for keeping that information undisclosed, Steve Bucci, a career Army Special Forces officer and former adviser to the secretary of defense, told Marine Corps Times in a previous interview.

Various groups, from criminal gangs to ideologically-driven extremists or even Syrian government agencies that could have taken Austin Tice might have different motives for the capture and different conditions on his release.

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, hold photos of their son during a July 2017 press conference in Beirut, Lebanon. (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, hold photos of their son during a July 2017 press conference in Beirut, Lebanon. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Debra Tice and her husband and Austin’s father, Marc, have remained vigilant, contacting media, raising awareness and pressing government officials for progress on their son’s case.

In May 2019, in partnership with the National Press Club, the held the first “Night Out for Austin Tice,” with participating restaurants and bars donating proceeds to a fund for his release. Entities in 13 states and Washington, D.C., held events, raising $60,000 to add to the $1 million reward put out by the FBI in connection to his return.

On Monday Austin Tice’s parents announced the second annual night out, which will be held on April 29. Event organizers, which include three of Austin Tice’s six siblings, are working to have at least one event in all 50 states to further raise the profile of his plight.

Supporters also held an “Ask About Austin” drive on Capitol Hill to attract the attention of lawmakers and push media outlets to continue to press government officials on the case.

The family sought their son’s return from his capture in 2012 through the end of the President Barack Obama’s administration and continued those efforts with President Donald Trump’s administration.

Debra Tice said the family thought it was close to moving their son’s release forward at the end of Obama’s term but later learned that for an unknown reason a senior government official was not taking action to make it happen.

She claims the same is happening now, despite Trump’s directive to his staff to work Austin Tice’s release.

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