Israeli police questioned the grandfather of a young boy who was the sole survivor of a fatal cable car crash in northern Italy earlier this year on suspicion of kidnapping
Eitan Biran, 6, is at the center of a bitter custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal parents in Italy. In May, his parents and younger brother were among 14 killed when a cable car slammed into a mountain in northern Italy.
Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident, and after being released from a Turin hospital after weeks of treatment for serious injuries, the Italian juvenile court authorities decided the child would be living with a paternal aunt near Pavia, in northern Italy. .
His Italian relatives claim the boy was airlifted without their permission to Israel over the weekend. Italian daily Corriere della Sera said his maternal grandfather drove Eitan in a rental car to Lugano, Switzerland, where they boarded a chartered flight to Tel Aviv.
Italian authorities also opened an investigation this week. The boy’s paternal aunt, Aya Biran, has filed an official request with the Italian judicial system to seek Eitan’s return to Italy. She also told police that the maternal grandfather did not take Eitan home as arranged on Saturday. Eitan’s Israeli relatives deny kidnapping him and insist they are acting in his best interests.
Israel Police said in a statement they had received a complaint about the kidnapping of a juvenile in custody in connection with the Eitan case. He said investigators interviewed a 58-year-old resident of the central city of Petah Tikva who was suspected of being involved in the case, and the investigation was ongoing.
Eitan’s maternal parents said in a statement that Shmulik Peleg, Eitan’s grandfather, had cooperated with police investigators and had been under house arrest until Friday.
“Bringing Eitan to Israel was done legally after legal consultations,” the grandfather said in a press statement.
Italian news agency LaPresse quoted Israel’s Ambassador to Italy, Dror Eydar, as saying: “Hearts are breaking over the latest surprising developments related to child Eitan Biran.”
Associated Press writer Frances D’Emilio contributed Rome.