An Italian judge has issued an international arrest warrant for the Israeli grandfather of a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy, after the man spirited the child to Israel in violation of an Italian court order.
Eitan Biran was the sole survivor of the May 23 cable car crash in northern Italy that killed 14 people, including his parents and younger brother. Ever since, he has been the focus of a custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy.
On Sept. 11, Eitan’s maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, drove him to Switzerland after a regular visit and flew him aboard a private plane to Israel. Last month, an Israeli court ordered Eitan to be returned to his relatives in Italy, ruling his relocation to Israel was unlawful and ordering Peleg to pay around $20,000 in expenses and attorney fees.
Peleg has defended his decision to spirit the boy away, saying it was in the child’s best interest.
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.
Judge Pasquale Villani at the Pavia tribunal issued the arrest warrant for Peleg and another Israeli man, Gabriel Abutbul Alon, who is accused of driving the rental car to Switzerland. The men and Eitan’s Israel-based grandmother are under investigation by Pavia prosecutors for alleged kidnapping and taking a minor overseas in violation of a court order.
In Israel, a lawyer for Peleg declined comment Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday, the Pavia prosecutors’ office accused Peleg and Alon of having planned and executed the crime “with lucid premeditation and meticulous organization.”
Prosecutors Mario Venditti and Valentina De Stefano alleged that Peleg and Alon went to great lengths to hide their tracks, renting more than one car to get across the border.
Prosecutors also said Peleg had made multiple visits to Switzerland in the days before the flight and had paid 42,000 euros to a German charter company for the jet that took them to Tel Aviv.