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Europe

Three-year-old Elise and father arrive in Paris

©

Video by Sophie CLAUDET

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-14

The three-year-old girl at the heart of an international custody battle landed in Paris on Tuesday, a day after she was reunited with her father in Hungary. The child had been kidnapped by her Russian mother in southern France.

Elise, the three-year-old girl kidnapped in southern France on March 20 and found in Hungary at the weekend, has arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris with her father.

Jean-Michel Andre, a French citizen, was reunited with his daughter, Elise, a day after the toddler’s Russian mother, Irina Belenkaïa, was arrested while trying to cross the Hungarian border into Ukraine.
 
‘To return in peace to France’

In an interview earlier Monday, Andre told the French radio station, Europe 1, that he wanted to bring little Elise back to France.

"I would like to be able to return in peace to France. It would be good if she could be in her house, if not, we must go to a safe place where nobody will find us,” he said.

According to Andre, Elise was abducted by two men and a woman in the southern French city of Arles March 20 while he was bringing her home from school. Andre was violently beaten with electric batons during the attack, which was conducted by two men and a woman, he said.

A bitter, transnational custody battle


After alerting police across Europe, French authorities rapidly moved to trace the mother’s path. An international arrest warrant for Belenkaïa was issued in 2008 following her first attempt at abducting the child.
 
The couple divorced in 2007 and a French court granted the father custody of the child. Following the divorce, the mother abducted Elise and took her to Russia in defiance of the French court ruling. While in Russia, a court granted the mother custody of the child.

Following the Russian court order, Andre himself abducted the daughter from a Moscow street last year.

Two legal investigations have been opened up, one against the mother and the other against the two unidentified attackers who participated in the March 20 abduction.
 

Date created : 2009-04-14

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