TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The bitter custody battle over a six-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy inched forward in Israel on Thursday, with a new court date and appeals made for privacy.
Lawyers for the two family branches spoke after Eitan Biran’s relatives on both sides emerged from family court in Tel Aviv, where a hearing date was set for next month and other logistics were discussed in a closely-watched international legal fight. Eitan’s immediate family was among 14 people killed when the cable car carrying them crashed into a mountainside on May 23.
At the center of the fight is the decision by Eitan’s grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, who spirited the boy from Italy through Switzerland and back to Israel. Italian juvenile court officials had ruled that child could live with a paternal aunt near Pavia, in northern Italy. Both Peleg and Eitan’s aunt Aya Biran, who lives in Italy, were among the relatives present Thursday for the hearing.
Shmuel Moran, a lawyer for Eitan’s aunt, said the court will again meet on Oct. 8 and that the sides had agreed on other arrangements. Both he and Ronen Dalyahu, the lawyer for the Israeli side of the family, appealed for privacy.
But the images of Eitan’s aunt and grandfather in the same building were striking given the tragedy and gravity of the dispute.
Eitan’s relatives in Italy say he was taken without their knowledge and are seeking his return. The child’s relatives in Israel have denied to local media that they abducted Eitan and insist they are acting in his interest.
Peleg has acknowledged driving the child from Italy into Switzerland before flying him back to Israel, telling Channel 12 that “we departed in a totally legal way.”
Peleg was questioned by Israeli police on kidnapping suspicions and placed under house arrest pending an ongoing investigation.
Italian authorities also have opened an investigation. Peleg told Israel’s Channel 12 that he had given up on contesting custody in the Italian court system and said he expected the boy to understand once he got older.
“I believe that one day Eitan will grow up and say grandfather, you did everything for me, you saved me,” he said, breaking into tears. “And my daughter, who one day will meet me in heaven, will be proud of me that I saved her son.”