Man suspected of kidnapping Italian boy questioned in Israel


JERUSALEM, September 14 (Reuters) – Israel police questioned a suspect on Tuesday about the alleged kidnapping of a six-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of the Italian cable car disaster and who is now at the center of ‘a battle for his custody.

Eitan Biran’s parents, younger brother and 11 others all died when a gondola collapsed in northern Italy in May. Read more

The boy moved in with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran, in northern Italy. His maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, picked him up on a scheduled family trip on Saturday, but they never returned, the aunt told reporters.

Italian media said they crossed the neighboring border into Switzerland and took a private jet to Tel Aviv.

In a statement, Israel Police said they received a complaint that a minor was kidnapped and airlifted to Israel, and interviewed a 58-year-old man suspected of being involved.

The statement did not identify the suspect, who was released under restrictions. Israeli media reported that the grandfather had been questioned.

Earlier today, the boy’s family in Italy filed a petition in Tel Aviv family court for his return. Their Israeli lawyer, Shmuel Moran, said the court had set a hearing for September 29. He has to make a decision within six weeks.

Peleg’s lawyers admitted that he took the boy to Israel. They said he “acted on impulse” after being excluded from legal proceedings related to the boy’s custody and worried about his grandson’s health.

A forensic source said prosecutors in the city of Pavia in northern Italy have opened a kidnapping investigation. The prosecution declined to comment.

Israeli media reported that Eitan’s maternal aunt, Gali Peleg, who applied for adoption last August, claiming the boy was being held hostage, had denied committing any crime.

“We didn’t kidnap him. We took him home… I’m only speaking to clarify that we have acted for Eitan’s sake, ”she told Israel’s 103 FM radio station.

Magistrates are still investigating why the cable car, on a line connecting Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the nearby mountain of Mottarone, collapsed.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Crispian Balmer in Rome; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Kevin Liffey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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