Italy has issued an international arrest warrant for the grandfather of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of a cable car crash who is caught up in a bitter custody battle, over the child’s alleged abduction.
Prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Pavia have also filed an arrest warrant for an Israeli man who allegedly drove the car in which the six-year-old was taken to the Swiss city of Lugano, from where he was flown by private plane to Tel Aviv.
Prosecutors said the alleged abduction of Eitan, who lost his parents and two-year-old brother in the Stresa-Mottarone aerial tramway crash in May, was a “premeditated strategic plan”.
The move comes after an Israeli judge ruled Eitan must be returned to Italy and ordered his maternal grandfather, Shmuel Peleg, to pay about €18,000 (£15,300) in expenses and legal costs. The child’s maternal relatives appealed against the ruling; a hearing on the case will be held in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Eitan, who suffered injuries to his head and legs in the crash, went to live with his paternal aunt, Aya Biran-Nirko, in Pavia after he was discharged from hospital in June. Biran-Nirko was granted temporary custody soon after the tragedy so that Eitan, who has Italian and Israeli passports, could continue to receive the necessary medical care.
However, this was contested by relatives on his mother’s side in Israel, and tensions between the two sides of the family escalated.
The boy was taken to Israel in September in a private plane that prosecutors said cost €42,000.
Eitan was born in Israel but had been living in Italy since he was one month old. He had been due to start school two days after his alleged abduction.
Eitan’s 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.
The prosecutor Mario Venditti told Ansa news agency: “We are waiting for the response of the Israeli authorities to the international arrest warrant. Then we will proceed with the closure of the investigation and the request for a trial.”
Eitan’s great-grandparents also died in the crash, which is believed to have happened when a lead cable snapped, causing the cabin to hurtle backwards before falling about 20 metres into a wooded area below. The wreckage of the cabin was removed on Tuesday amid an ongoing investigation into the cause of the crash.