Israeli citizen detained in Greece over 8-year-old custody case

L. has been detained on the Island of Crete since late October due to charges opened against her by her abusive ex-husband in 2014.

 The Greek island of Crete (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Greek island of Crete
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An international arrest warrant has been issued against an American woman with Israeli citizenship who is currently detained in Greece over charges filed against her in 2014, eight years ago.

The arrest warrant was issued in the face of a legal dispute that reached the International Court of Justice in the Hague, where it was alleged against the woman that she kidnapped her children from their father, who was an Israeli citizen.

The family dispute turned complicated legal issue has left the woman, known only as L., indefinitely detained on the Greek island of Crete.

The focus of the legal matter is the question of custody for the children following the divorce proceedings and separation of their parents.

The mother, who is detained in Crete, claimed that the father of her children had acted violently towards her and their shared children. 

 Women take part in a ceremony in memory of women murdered by men, as part of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women events in Tel Aviv, November 24, 2022.  (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) Women take part in a ceremony in memory of women murdered by men, as part of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women events in Tel Aviv, November 24, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

"In 2014, my children and I fled California due to child abuse, domestic violence, and stalking. All of this has been documented through 12 volumes of court files in San Bernardino County," L. explained, describing the series of events that led to her being detained.

"Every resource available was relied upon to help, but every resource told us there was 'nothing further' they could do. After my two sons asked me to take them away, because it was 'going to be him or us', and after carefully considering what options we had left, we packed our suitcases, court papers, and ran for our lives.

"My sons told me that their father had been using a gun to discipline them, was threatening them constantly, and they couldn’t take it anymore. They had already endured being forced to eat out of the garbage, hit, punched, choked, tied up with belts, rolled up into carpets, Christmas tree netting, yelled at, called names, told they were no good, and forced to live in extremely filthy conditions."

L. added that at one point, after social services determined that the conditions at their father's were not suitable to live in, the children were removed from the situation and placed into protective custody.

"I’m an extremely proud mother and know that each of my children are resilient, courageous, and wonderful. We are a very close family and have experienced a lot over the years but remain optimistic about the future."

L., detained in Crete

However, she continued, "restraining orders were granted but there were no consequences when he violated the order. He continued to abuse the children, stalk and threaten me, and as a result, we ended up living in our home like prisoners, with 8 security cameras running 24/7."

In 2014, L. and her sons fled the US for Israel, where she says they felt safe and protected for the first time, so much so that she recalls her sons saying that they "felt safer with rockets flying over their heads during Operation Protective Edge in June 2014 than they did back in the US."

However, in December 2014, the father presented his own allegations against L. in The Hague, which L. ended up winning and it was ruled that the father presented a grave danger to the children. He appealed the ruling to seven different courts and lost each time.

"Seven different judges ruled that the children were going to stay in Israel," says L. "We had provided the exact same information, documents, and evidence that was presented and ignored in California.  Each level of court in Israel gave him the opportunity to reunite with the children, with intervention and support systems in place. He refused, saying he hadn’t done anything wrong and refused to acknowledge the abuse."

The abuse continues despite his death

While her ex-husband passed away due to substance abuse last year, he continued to threaten L. and her sons until the end, she recalls, explaining how he filed a case against the Child Abduction Unit for failing to extradite her, despite Israel's protections ensuring that she could not be extradited.

"He placed ads in the local newspaper, rented space at the mall and told people that I had kidnapped his children to Israel," she adds. "He left out the part where he had been abusing them and never took responsibility for any of his actions."

Although her children are now over the age of 18 and have been petitioning along with her for the Child Abduction Unit to drop the charges against her, L. was arrested when she flew into the Greek island at the end of October where she now remains, awaiting extradition. 

Now, her relatives are trying to get funding for legal advice, while also hoping that the Israeli Foreign Ministry will intervene since she holds Israeli citizenship.

The Foreign Minister has stated that "the case is known to the Department for Israelis Abroad and the Israeli Consul in Athens, and has been handled for some time now. The matter is under review with the relevant authorities."

"I’m an extremely proud mother and know that each of my children is resilient, courageous, and wonderful," says L, who is free to roam Crete as she pleases but is forbidden to leave. "We are a very close family and have experienced a lot over the years but remain optimistic about the future."