USA / Iraq / Mexico: Man Arrested on International Parental Kidnapping Charges


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BROWNSVILLE – Authorities arrested a 36-year-old man in Mexico City on charges of international parental kidnapping. Ismail Khaleel Al Gebory is set to make his initial appearance in court this morning in Houston.

The criminal complaint against him was filed in Brownsville. Al Gebory is accused of not returning the child after a regular visitation on February 17. The child’s mother has sole custody, but Al Gebory would travel from San Antonio to Brownsville for regular visitation.

When the child wasn’t returned, the child’s mother called authorities and said Al Gebory had relatives in Iraq. According to the criminal complaint, he tried to get an Iraqi passport for the child, while in Mexico.

At the time of his arrest, the child was with Al Gebory. The child and mother have been reunited.

India / UK: Boy ‘abducted’ by dad reunites with mother


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KOCHI: Anna Mathews, a Kollam native whose son was sneaked out of the country to the UK by her estranged husband, has finally been granted custody of the 5-year-old child by a UK court. The man’s act was dubbed as an instance of international parental child abduction by many.

Arguing for the custody of the child, her husband James Robert Edward Pierce, a UK national, said in the court that lawyers in India had advised him to leave the country with his son, Samuel. “James kept saying that the courts in India were corrupt. However, the judge considered the line of thought to be colonial.After hearing James’s part for about 90 minutes, the judge ruled in my favour,” said Mathews adding that the judge in the middle of the proceedings observed the incident to be a case of child abuse.

Post the judgment at 12 pm GMT on Friday, Mathews went to a police station in London to pick up Samuel. “My solicitor told me that James had appealed. However, the appeal petition got rejected and James brought back Samuel by about 7 pm,” said Mathews from the UK.

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TOI had reported about the ‘custody war’ between parents, becoming an international crime when Pierce failed to return the child to his mother on the stipulated date after a short interim custody period. A court in Kochi had granted her permanent custody of the child.

Mathews was forced to open up her private life to the world on January 13 via Facebook post after the abduction. Her post, seeking help to find the boy, was shared by thousands.
She had even managed to get in touch with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj through Twitter. But all efforts couldn’t prevent James from managing travel documents to the UK from the high commissionerate at Kathmandu.”There shouldn’t be any more complications now. The child is eligible for overseas citizenship of India, since his mot her is an Indian citizen. They can be together in the country as long as they want,” said Ajithkumar Nair, a former entry clearance officer (Visa) in the UK (High Commission of India, London) and criminologist.Senior diplomats here lauded the judicial system in the UK. “Verdicts come within hours at the courts there. The case has been pending in the Kerala courts for years and the British court took a decision in a matter of hours,” said a diplomat.

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Meanwhile, Mathews maintained that the case against Pierce will take its due course. “The incident is being investigated by the police in Kerala,” she added.

Moldova: Kidnapped baby’s mother detained


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After the detention of the father and two other suspects in the case of the 12-day-old baby that had been kidnapped and was to be trafficked out of the country, the baby’s mother was also detained for 72 hours.

According to ipn.md, the mother is prosecuted for “illegal removal of children from the country”, and today prosecutors will charge her with the “child trafficking” offense, for which the woman risks a prison term of 10 – 12 years.

On February 15, three other suspects in the case were detained at Leuseni crossing point, including the baby’s father and a German citizen.

Preliminary investigations established that the baby came from a socially vulnerable family with other three dependent children, while the father had been previously prosecuted for robbery. Both of the child’s parents are from Balti.

According to the IPN, the newborn was placed in a care and rehabilitation center for young children in Chisinau and the other three children will be taken by the social welfare authorities in Balti. The source adds that, so far, the guardianship and prosecution authorities did not request termination of parental rights.

Recall that the baby-kidnapping attempt took place on February 15. The baby was to be taken to Germany. Three people, two men with dual citizenships that of Moldova and Romania, and a citizen of Germany, were noticed at the Leuseni crossing point. There was also a child, born on 3 February this year, with them. The accompanying people were not the child’s relatives, but one of them had a notarized consent for departure with the purpose of having a rest in EU, signed by the child’s father.

USA: Washington Boys Reunited with Dad Six Months After Going Missing, Mom Charged with Kidnapping


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A Washington family is “ecstatic” following their reunion Friday with their sons, who had been missing for six months following what the FBI alleged was a kidnapping by their mother.

Isaac and Sage Cook, 9 and 15, were found in Sinaloa, Mexico, and returned to Bellevue Friday, the FBI’s Seattle division said in a statement.

They were reunited with their father, David Cook (who has legal custody of the boys), and stepmother, Helen Cook, in Mexico earlier that day, according to the FBI.

Their mother, Faye Hsin-I Ku, has been charged in Washington with felony custodial interference and with international parental kidnapping, a federal crime, according to the FBI.

Authorities have accused her of illegally crossing from San Diego into Tijuana on Aug. 29.

A federal complaint and arrest warrant were also issued Friday by the United States District Court, Central District of California, according to the FBI.

Ku has been extradited from Mexico and will appear in federal court on Tuesday, in L.A., according to the FBI.

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Isaac and Sage were last seen at the Los Angeles International Airport, on Aug. 28, after arriving from Washington, according to an earlier Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lakewood Station statement

The boys had traveled to Lakewood, California, that Friday in 2015 for a “supervised visit” with Ku, according to the sheriff’s statement.

She and David divorced in 2009, according to the statement.

The sheriff’s office alleged that “the investigation revealed Ms. Ku presented what appeared to be a ‘supervised visit’ court order issued by the State of Washington to the missing children’s father, and he reasonably relied on what he thought was a legitimate order,” according to the statement.

The sheriff’s office claimed that “Ms. Ku intentionally left behind personal belongings at her place of residence that would prevent law enforcement from tracking her whereabouts.”

“In a prepared a letter, she blamed the children’s father for trying to control them, and asked him to leave them alone,” the sheriff’s office alleged.

But on Friday, the Cook family and law enforcement celebrated a successful, safe reunion.

“This six-month international kidnapping investigation by the FBI’s Seattle Division comes to a positive conclusion due to the efforts made by and extraordinary partnerships with Legat Mexico City, INM, the FBI’s Los Angeles Division” and the “Bellevue Police Department and the Lakewood Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” according to the FBI’s statement.

“David and I are ecstatic to announce that Sage and Isaac have been found safe and are home in Bellevue tonight,” Helen wrote on Facebook. “We are so grateful to the FBI in Seattle and in Mexico for all they did to make this happen.

“And to all the wonderful people who kept us going for the last five months by supporting us through this page and in many other ways. Thank you all.”

Japan: Japanese courts rule Minnesota children will stay in Japan


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A Japanese court ruled Friday that Minnesota-born children in the middle of an international custody dispute can remain in Japan (the third largest abductor of US children.)

James Cook and Hitomi Arimitsu have been arguing over whether Japan or the United States is the home country of their four children.

The couple’s case has wound for more than two years through the courts of Japan. Friday’s ruling overturns earlier legal action that established the United States as children’s official residence.

In July 2014, Arimitsu, a Japanese citizen, took the couple’s four children — two sets of twins aged 8 and 13 — on a vacation to Japan. The couple had been working through a difficult patch in their relationship, and agreed that a six-week trip to visit their grandparents in Japan would be a good break for the children and their mother.

More than two years later, Arimitsu and the children still haven’t returned to the United States, and she and Cook have been battling in the courts for their children’s custody.

The Hague Convention, an international agreement signed by Japan and the United States, allowed Cook access to the Japanese court system. The court ruled in January 2015 that the children should return to Minnesota. Meanwhile, that same year, Cook filed for a divorce from Arimitsu through the Hennepin County Courts system. A judge there granted him temporary custody of the children as part of the process.

Since then, Arimitsu has refused to return the children to the United States, which has left her in contempt of the Japanese and Minnesota court orders.

Friday’s decision overturns the Japanese court’s 2015 ruling. The Osaka District Court Friday agreed with a petition filed by Arimitsu last month, in which she wrote she could not return the children to Minnesota because Cook had no way to pay for their housing or schooling. That, she wrote, “would be a grave risk of harm to the children if they were returned to the U.S.”

The court found that Cook lacked the resources to support all four children — but his attorney, Victoria Taylor, argues that the reversal isn’t in line with The Hague Convention.

“This is going to become an international incident,” she said.

Taylor said she and her client plan to contact the U.S. State Department to see what sanctions can be leveraged against Japan to ensure the children’s return.

USA: Lawmaker seeks to set criminal standards for parental kidnapping


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SALT LAKE CITY — Arlet Falslev was 17 months old when she was taken from her father.

She was 9 when she was found with her mother in Minnesota and returned to Utah, where she was reunited with her dad — a man she didn’t remember.

Terryl Warner, Cache County’s director of victim services, told state lawmakers about the case of parental kidnapping Thursday. The girl’s mother, she said, still has visitation rights, but now she must wear an ankle bracelet broadcasting her whereabouts.

Warner testified in support of a bill that would classify parental kidnapping as a new offense. HB173, sponsored by Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, defines the offense as one parent withholding another parent’s right to see their child in such a way that they cannot resolve the conflict through civil remedies.

The first two offenses of parental kidnapping would be a class B misdemeanor, with a third being a class A misdemeanor. A third-degree felony charge would apply to parents taking children out of state.

“We are asking you to pass this amendment that allows us to prosecute when an order is not in place and a child goes missing,” Warner said.

Parental interference only applies in cases where a custody order was already in place. HB173 would change the standard to allow prosecution without an existing custody order, she said.

“The intent is to go after the parent that takes the child, that deprives the other parent of the association with that child for months or even years,” Potter said.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the House floor for further debate.

Will Carlson, representing the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, spoke against the bill.

“We should not be bringing that heavy hammer of criminal law into the early stages of a family separation, and that is what this bill threatens to do,” Carlson said.

Parental interference is a term that is often exploited by one parent when the other parent is only a few minutes late returning a child to their custodial parent, he said.

“We want to honor a parent’s right to be able to address these matters in front of a civil court,” said Spencer Walsh, Cache County deputy attorney.

“If one parent completely prevents the other parent from having their day in court in front of a civil judge, that is wrong,” Walsh said.

 

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How the Etan Patz kidnapping changed parenting


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In May 1979, 6-year-old Etan Patz convinced his mother to let him walk to his school bus stop alone for the first time. He never made it home.

On Tuesday, a jury brought back a conviction for the decades-old murder.

It was a shocking case that cycled in and out of headlines for decades with all the elements of a TV drama: an early suspect who was a convicted child molester, a hard-charging prosecutor who kept the case in his sights over the years, and the latest defendant. That man, Pedro Hernandez, was nearly convicted in a 2015 trial, but a lone juror refused to convict then, citing questions about the defendant’s mental acuity. Patz’s father reportedly attended the latest trial every day.

Tuesday’s conviction is the latest chapter in a case that did a good amount to change the way children grow up in New York City and beyond.

Shortly after police officers and journalists began crisscrossing Patz’s SoHo neighborhood that spring, the child’s face — delicate and innocent-looking — became the first to grace milk cartons in what would become a trope of alarm and warning. President Ronald Reagan declared the day of his disappearance “National Missing Children’s Day,” and some parents began restricting their kids’ activities in a motion that continues to this day.

The intense public reaction to the case didn’t come out of nowhere. The Patz case “transformed what the public imagined that the kidnapper was doing with the child,” says Paula Fass, author of the history Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America. It was the first time a child kidnapping was explicitly and prominently perceived to be a sexual crime.

Fass places that moral outrage in the context of the “major transformations” taking place in American society at the time: the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s; gay men and women coming out publicly in large numbers; and an increasing number of mothers entering the workforce.

There were all sorts of complicated cultural feelings about the growing role of women in the working world, which led to concern that mothers wouldn’t be at home “all the time, in neighborhoods looking out the windows.” That became a “really powerful incentive to begin to imagine all sorts of terrible things happening to children,” Fass says.

As media and political attention fixated on a handful of similar child murders across the country, childhood began to change.

Fass points to her own upbringing in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s — walking down the block to buy a newspaper for her parents or play with friends in the street. “I went on the subway by myself at 10 years old.”

There were limits to childhood freedom — she was warned to be careful crossing the street and stay away from a bar near the local candy store. But she was often out of sight of parents. Today, meanwhile, “free-range” parents can face arrest for allowing kids to walk home from a park alone.

One irony of the Patz case was that his mother was in fact home. She had allowed Etan a brief moment of freedom that ended in a nightmare.

Another irony: the new norms of protectiveness sometimes overlook the ways society could actually protect and help its children.

“We do very little to protect parents from making hard decisions,” says Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap. A focus on “stranger danger” doesn’t do much to protect against domestic abuse within families. In terms of child care, we could ask government to provide safe, affordable care, or extend parental leave rather than scold families who struggle to do their best with their kids. While that has been a priority in places like New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio, “that has not yet been the focus of politicians” nationwide, Coontz says.

Instead, we let ourselves be controlled by the terrifying outlier scenario. Just keep your children inside or watched, and everything will be better, the thinking goes.

Fass says that while raising her children in San Francisco, she wouldn’t let them do plenty of the things she was accustomed to growing up. But it’s still striking to see how far things have changed. “When I come to New York,” Fass noticed, it is hard to miss “the emptiness of the playgrounds.”

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