Eitan Biran to return to Italy by December 12, High Court rules

Israel's High Court of Justice upheld a lower court ruling in favor of Biran's Israeli-Italian aunt.

 AYA BIRAN, the paternal aunt of Eitan Biran speaks outside the Tel Aviv court yesterday. (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)
AYA BIRAN, the paternal aunt of Eitan Biran speaks outside the Tel Aviv court yesterday.
(photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein on Monday rejected a final appeal by the grandfather of Eitan Biran and ordered the six-year-old to be sent back to Italy on December 12 to live with his Italian-Israeli aunt.

The decision likely ends months of litigation, though it was unclear if the grandfather might be able to attempt a slight additional delay with a near futile constitutional appeal to the Supreme Court in its capacity as the High Court of Justice.

Stein’s decision confirmed two lower court decisions despite the November 17 appeal of Shmuel Peleg.

A first lower court ruling in favor of the aunt, Aya Biran, came more than a month ago on October 25.

Biran is the sole survivor of a cable car crash in northern Italy in May. He had been brought to Israel by his Israeli grandfather illegally, according to the court.

ATTORNEYS SHMUEL Moran and Avi Chimi, lawyers for the Biran family, hold a news conference on Monday following the court decision that Eitan Biran should be returned to his family in Italy. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)ATTORNEYS SHMUEL Moran and Avi Chimi, lawyers for the Biran family, hold a news conference on Monday following the court decision that Eitan Biran should be returned to his family in Italy. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

The crash caused the deaths of 14 people, including Eitan’s father, Amit Biran; his mother, Tal Peleg; his one-year-old brother, Tom; and his great-grandparents, Barbara Cohen Konisky and Itshak Cohen.

Previously, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera also reported that an international arrest warrant was issued against Peleg and another man, an Israeli citizen and resident of Cyprus who was in the car with Peleg during the trip.

According to the report, the man often traveled to Italy with Peleg, and tried to attend a hearing about Eitan’s custody in August, introducing himself as an Israeli lawyer but then failing to produce an official identification card.

“[Peleg] carried out a strategic and premeditated scheme that allowed him to bring the child to Israel with him,” prosecuting attorney Mario Venditti told the Corriere in an interview. “The accurate investigation conducted by Pavia’s police clearly shows that everything was planned ahead in detail, starting from the moment when Peleg understood that he would not be able to obtain the grandchild’s custody.”

Since late October, Biran has been living with his aunt, who has remained in Israel.

According to the appeal, the lower rulings were faulty because they acted as if the Italian courts had already ruled permanently in favor of the Italian aunt, when they had only granted her temporary custody pending continued legal proceedings.

Further, Peleg argued that the lower courts did not hear all critical evidence for discerning what was in Biran’s best interests.

The lower courts found that Biran had deeper ties and was more acclimated with his Italian family and surroundings than he is with his Israeli family and surroundings.

In addition, the courts had said the grandfather had violated The Hague Convention by removing Biran from Italy without a court ruling.

Technically, the grandfather could still seek custody through the Italian courts even if Biran had already gone back to Italy, but his chances would have been viewed as slim.

 ITALIAN POLICE AND rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, in May. (credit: REUTERS) ITALIAN POLICE AND rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore, in May. (credit: REUTERS)

Italian authorities had previously assigned Eitan’s custody to Aya – sister to Eitan’s father Amit – who is a doctor living in the suburbs of Pavia with her husband, Or, and their two daughters who are around Eitan’s age.

Eitan’s family moved to Pavia five years ago so that his father would be able to study medicine.

The six-year-old was illegally taken to Israel by his grandfather Shmuel Peleg earlier in September.

Peleg’s lawyers in Italy have acknowledged that he had taken the boy to Israel, saying he had “acted on impulse,” as he was worried about his grandson’s health after Peleg was excluded from legal proceedings related to the boy’s custody.

Eitan spent most of his life growing up in Italy, and there are indications that the parents planned to remain there, at least for the meantime.

The boy’s father had brought the family to Italy in order to attend medical school, but there are also signs that they planned to return to Israel and raise their children in the Jewish state, if not for the tragedy.

Peleg had accused Aya of keeping the child “hostage,” and of disregarding his Israeli and Jewish identity.

mily to Italy in order to attend medical school, yet there are also signs that the family planned to return to Israel and raise their children in the Jewish state, if not for the tragedy.

Peleg had accused Aya of keeping the child “hostage,” and of disregarding his Israeli and Jewish identity.