Eitan Biran custody decision issued by an Israeli court

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TEL AVIV – An Israeli family court ruled on Monday that the 6-year-old survivor of an Italian cable car accident must live with his paternal aunt in Italy, not the maternal grandfather who took him to Israel in what the court said was a violation of international law.

The boy, Eitan Biran, was the only survivor when a cable snapped on a gondola ascending a nearly 5,000-foot mountain in northern Italy in May. He was born in Israel but lived in Italy with his parents, who were killed in the crash.

The custody dispute between her aunt, Aya Biran, and her grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, has divided the family and attracted international attention.

The court accepted Ms Biran’s assertion that she was the legal guardian of the child, duly appointed by an Italian court, and flatly rejected all of Mr Peleg’s arguments.

Judge Iris Ilotovich-Segal further accused Mr Peleg of smuggling the child into Israel in violation of the Hague Child Abduction Convention, and ordered him to pay Ms Biran’s legal fees.

“I am very excited and very happy with the decision, which came after very difficult months, both the disaster and the legal battle I had to fight,” Ms. Biran said in a telephone interview. “The most important thing is to get Eitan home as soon as possible – to his rehab, and his school, and his friends, and the room he knows, and his cat Oliver – and try to get him back on. the rails as quickly as possible. possible under the circumstances.

His lawyer, Shmuel Moran, said: “There is no winner in the legal process here, except for one winner, Eitan, who must return home as soon as possible.”

The Peleg family are considering appealing the decision.

“The family are determined to keep fighting in any way they can, for Eitan’s sake, his well-being and his right to grow up in Israel as his parents wished,” a family spokesperson said. in a press release.

The court ruling only concerned the circumstances of Eitan’s arrival in Israel, not his “well-being and future,” according to the Peleg family statement.

Judge Ilotovich-Segal ordered a seven-day delay in implementing her decision allowing the defendants to appeal to the district court.

An Italian court in Turin had appointed Ms Biran as the boy’s legal guardian soon after the accident, and he was living with her in a small town near Pavia, Italy.

Mr Peleg visited the boy in Italy last month and took him on a short trip with Ms Biran’s consent.

Instead of bringing Eitan back in time for dinner, as promised, Mr. Peleg drove the boy across the border into Switzerland and from there boarded a private plane to Israel.

Mr Peleg argued that Eitan’s parents, who had moved to Italy for his father to study medicine, had always intended to return to Israel.

Judge Ilotovich-Segal rejected this argument, as well as Mr Peleg’s fear that Eitan would be harmed if he returned him to Italy.

The Pelegs have challenged Ms Biran’s guardianship in the courts of Milan and Pavia, which are due to hold hearings in November and December.

Mario Venditti, the Pavia prosecutor who is investigating whether Mr. Peleg broke Italian law when he took Eitan to Israel, declined to comment.

At the end of her verdict, Judge Ilotovich-Segal called on both sides to try to come to an amicable settlement in Eitan’s best interests, saying his well-being required support and connection with the two families.

“Such a connection that will allow her to feel a sense of belonging and a place to continue the legacy of both families and commemorate the memory of her immediate family,” she wrote.

The circumstances which led to the verdict cannot be changed, the judge wrote, “however, there is always a choice as to what actions to take later.”

“Hope has not yet been lost to mend the family divide,” she said.

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.


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