Eitan Biran case: Supreme Court suspends Eitan's departure

The grandfather of six-year-old orphan Eitan Biran, who is at the epicenter of a dramatic legal custody battle, requested to appeal to the Supreme Court in order to bar Biran's return to Italy.

 Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Eitan Biran's grandfather arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

The grandfather of Eitan Biran on Wednesday filed a request to make an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn last week’s Tel Aviv District Court ruling to send the six-year-old back to Italy to live with his Italian-Israeli aunt. The court later suspended Biran's departure to Italy and will likely give a final evaluation soon. 

Because this is a civil case and the grandfather has already lost at two lower court levels – at the magistrate’s and the district court levels – the grandfather cannot actually file a substantive appeal unless the Supreme Court grants him special permission.

But by filing the motion to appeal, the grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, may hope to delay Biran’s return to Italy, which was set for next week.

Last week, the Tel Aviv District Court upheld a lower court ruling on October 25 to send the six-year-old back to Italy to live with his Italian-Israeli aunt within 15 days.

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

 Eitan Biran's aunt arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI) Eitan Biran's aunt arrives at Tel Aviv court for custody hearing, September 23, 2021 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

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.

Last week, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera also reported that an international arrest warrant was issued against Peleg and another man, an Israeli citizen resident of Cyprus.

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 the 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.”

It was unclear how long the Israeli judicial appeals process would take, and there could be an additional appeal to the Supreme Court; but, so far, the process has moved at a lightning-fast speed relative to slow judicial calendars.

In the meantime, Biran will reside with his aunt, who will remain in Israel until the proceedings conclude.

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 had found that Biran had deeper ties and was more acclimated with his Italian family and surroundings than 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 goes back to Italy, but his chances would be viewed as slim.

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

Eitan’s family moved to Pavia five years ago so that his father, Amit, 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 being 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 time being.

Yet, Eitan’s father had brought the family to Italy in order to attend medical school, and 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 that occurred.

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