A man suspected of assisting the alleged kidnap of a six-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy has been arrested in Cyprus.
Gabriel Abutbul Alon, an Israeli national, is accused of driving the car in which Eitan Biran was taken across the Italian border to the Swiss city of Lugano and arranging the private plane that flew him from there to Tel Aviv.
He was arrested in Limassol after being traced through his mobile phone’s location tracker, on charges of “kidnapping, abduction and sequestration abroad of a minor”.
Italian police issued an international arrest warrant for Alon, a former soldier, and Eitan’s grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, after the child was taken from his home close to the northern Italian city of Pavia on 11 September.
Biran lost his parents, who were Israeli nationals living in Italy, his two-year-old brother and maternal great-grandparents in the aerial tramway crash in northern Italy in May.
He became embroiled in a bitter custody battle between relatives in Italy and Israel after an Italian court granted temporary custody to his paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirko, in Pavia soon after the tragedy. Biran, who suffered injuries to his head and legs in the crash, went to live with his aunt after being discharged from hospital in June and had been due to start school two days after the alleged kidnap.
A judge in Tel Aviv last month ruled that the child must be returned to Italy and ordered Peleg to pay about €18,000 in expenses and legal costs. The ruling was later halted while his relatives in Israel decided whether or not to appeal against the decision.
Eitan was born in Israel but had been living in Italy since he was one month old. His paternal relatives claimed he had been taken away against their wishes and immediately filed a petition for his return to Italy. Peleg argued he had acted in the boy’s best interests.