High Court Clears Return of Kidnapped Boy to Italy

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

A six-year-old boy, the sole survivor of an Italian cable car disaster who was kidnapped and taken to Israel by his grandfather, will be returned to Italy no later than Dec. 12, Israel’s High Court ruled on Monday.

The court rejected a request by Eitan Biran’s maternal grandfather to appeal previous rulings by Israeli family and district courts which said the boy must be sent back to his paternal aunt in Italy.

The child had been living with the aunt since his parents, younger brother and 11 other people died when a gondola plunged to the ground in northern Italy in May.

In September, while visiting Eitan, his maternal grandfather, without the aunt’s consent, drove him to Switzerland and chartered a private jet onward to Israel, triggering a cross-border custody battle.

The aunt petitioned the Israeli family court for his return to Italy. The court found that the grandfather’s actions amounted to kidnapping under the Hague Convention on the return of abducted children.

“The request to appeal is rejected,” the Court said in its written ruling. “The minor shall be returned to Italy no later than 12.12.2021 and subject to that the District Court’s ruling shall be upheld.”

Lawyers for the aunt welcomed the ruling, which they described as “putting an end to a regrettable and unnecessary chapter which was harmful for little Eitan.”

A statement issued by representatives of the grandfather said the family would continue its struggle legally to bring Eitan to Israel.

The ruling, they said, meant that the boy “will be taken to a foreign land, far from his roots and loving family and from the place where his parents and little brother are buried.”

The grandfather and the aunt cannot be named due to Israeli court restrictions.


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