The Tel Aviv District Court rejected the appeal of Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran who survived the cable car disaster, and ruled that Eitan would be returned to Italy within 15 days, Hebrew media reported on Thursday.
According to the appeal on Thursday, the lower Tel Aviv Family Court ruling on October 25 was faulty because it 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.
Furthermore, the appeal said the lower court did not hear all critical evidence for discerning what was in Biran’s best interests.
The appeal claimed the aunt had blocked the grandfather from any access to Biran in the interim.
The lower court had found that Biran had deeper ties and was more acclimated with his Italian family and surroundings than with his Israeli family and surroundings.
The court also 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 be viewed as slim.
Biran is the sole survivor of a cable-car crash in northern Italy in May which 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 Itzhak Cohen.
While the hearing on Thursday was held behind closed doors due to Biran being a minor, lawyers, including Israel Bar Association president Avi Himi on behalf of Biran’s paternal aunt Aya Biran, said afterward to Hebrew media that he hoped the district court would quickly endorse the lower court ruling so Eitan could return to his regular life.
His grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, tried to avoid questions, while telling Hebrew media he was disturbed that Italy has issued an international arrest warrant against him for allegedly kidnapping Eitan after he brought him back to Israel.
The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday that an international arrest warrant was issued against another man, an Israeli citizen 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.”
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.
Italian authorities had previously assigned Eitan’s custody to Aya – sister to Amit – a doctor who lives with her husband, Or, and their two daughters who are around Eitan’s age, in the suburbs of Pavia.
Peleg’s lawyers in Italy have acknowledged that he had taken the boy to Israel in September, 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.
Peleg had accused Aya of keeping the child “hostage” and of disregarding his Israeli and Jewish identity.