Israeli court orders boy returned to Italy within 15 days

World
Shmulik Peleg

Shmulik Peleg, grandfather of Eitan Biran, who survived a cable car crash in Italy that killed his immediate family, arrives at court in Tel Aviv, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — An Israeli appeals court has said a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy must be returned to his relatives there within 15 days, upholding an earlier ruling in a bitter custody battle with family members in Israel.

Eitan Biran’s parents and younger sibling were among 14 people killed in May when a cable car slammed into a mountainside in northern Italy. His maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy are both seeking custody.

Ronen Dalyahu, a lawyer for the relatives in Israel, confirmed the ruling, which was issued late Thursday, and said they are considering an appeal. Lawyers for the paternal relatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This week, an Italian judge issued an international arrest warrant for the boy’s grandfather, who whisked Eitan to Israel on a private jet in September.

Last month, an Israeli court ordered the boy to be returned to his relatives in Italy, where he was living before the crash, saying that was “the place of his normal residence.” It also ordered his grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, who had brought him to Israel against the wishes of his family members in Italy, to pay around $20,000 in expenses and attorney fees.

The grandfather has defended his decision to spirit the boy away, saying it was in the child’s best interest. He drove Eitan from Italy to Switzerland without the other relatives’ knowledge before flying him to Israel. He has not commented on the Italian arrest warrant.

Eitan’s paternal relatives say he was taken without their knowledge and they had filed a legal complaint in Italy seeking his return.

Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident. After his release from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment, Italian juvenile court officials ruled the child would live with a paternal aunt, Aya Biran, near Pavia, in northern Italy.

In the earlier ruling, the Tel Aviv family court said Eitan’s residence was in Italy, where his family moved when he was only a month old. The judge concluded that his relocation to Israel was unlawful and violated the guardianship rights of his aunt.

The judge also called on the family to reconcile, saying it was in the boy’s interests.

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