Israeli man arrested over alleged kidnap of cable car crash survivor in Italy

The wreckage of the cable car after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in May.
The wreckage of the cable car after it collapsed near the summit of the Stresa-Mottarone line in May. Copyright AP Photo/Luca Bruno
By AP
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Six-year-old Eitan Biran has been the focus of a custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy after surviving the crash in May.

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A man wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a child who survived a cable car crash has been arrested in Cyprus.

Gabriel Abutbul Alon is accused of helping to transport six-year-old Eitan Biran to Israel after the disaster.

Eitan was the sole survivor of the May 23 cable car crash in northern Italy that killed 14 people, including his parents and younger brother.

Ever since he has been the focus of a custody battle between his maternal grandparents in Israel and his paternal relatives in Italy.

Earlier this month, an Italian judge issued an arrest warrant for Alon, who is alleged to have driven the boy from his home in Italy to Switzerland.

The boy's maternal grandfather Shmulik Peleg -- who is accused of flying Eitan to his home in Israel aboard a private jet -- was also named in the European arrest warrant.

On Friday, Cyprus police confirmed that had arrested a 50-year-old Israeli suspect at a hotel in the coastal resort town of Limassol.

Law enforcement officials said they believed Alon’s extradition to Italy could take some time if he opts to fight it in the courts.

An Israeli court has ordered Eitan to be returned to his relatives in Italy, ruling his relocation to Israel was unlawful and ordering Peleg to pay around €19,000 in expenses and attorney fees.

On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court confirmed that the boy should be returned to his Italian family within two weeks.

The Peleg family members argue they acted in the boy's best interests and say they would continue to fight “in every legal way” to return the child to Israel.

Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident. After his release from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment, Italian juvenile court officials ruled the child would live with a paternal aunt near Pavia, in northern Italy.

The boy’s family in Italy said they were happy with the Supreme Court decision, calling it “just and awaited.”

“We can only be happy with the end of this case, which represents a victory for the law and justice,” they said in a statement.

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