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27 May, 2009 22:30

Mother of kidnapped girl free to return to Russia

Irina Belenkaya, the Russian mother accused of kidnapping her daughter from her French ex-husband, has been released from custody by prosecutors in France.

Belenkaya had been held in custody during her trial but French authorities decided to free her on Wednesday, although she will remain under judicial control.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday night, Aix-en-Provence’s Prosecutor, Olivier Rothé, said Belenkaya was free to return to Russia.

Lawyer and member of Russia’s Public Chamber, Anatoly Kucherena, said the decision to release Belenkaya had been made in agreement with the local prosecutor.

“Yes, she may go to Russia,” RIA Novosti reports, quoting the prosecutor’s words.

Irina Belenkaya was held in Hungary where she was detained while trying to cross the border in late March.

Earlier, Anatoly Kucherena, who is mediating between the former spouses in this conflict, said that she would be taken to French Aix-en-Provence, where the court will review the litigation between Belenkaya and her ex husband Jean-Michel André.

The Russian embassy official was saying he was hopeful that on Wednesday the French court would rule a release of the woman under the pledge of not leaving the country. The defense lawyers were hopeful the parents will settle on a peace agreement, followed by the closing of the criminal case.

After their divorce in 2007, Irina Belenkaya and Jean-Michel André failed to agree on splitting the parental rights to their three-year-old daughter Eliza, who has dual Russian-French nationality.

A French court ruled that Eliza was to stay with her father, but shortly after Irina Belenkaya took her daughter to Russia, where she got the parental rights to her. In 2008, Andre came to Russia and took Eliza back to France.

On March 20, Eliza was kidnapped from her father on their way back from kindergarten. Jean-Michel André was severely beaten by three men. It is alleged that Irina Belenkaya was involved in organizing the kidnapping.

On April 13, Belenkaya was detained in Hungary while attempting to cross the border to Ukraine with Eliza, who has since been in the custody of her father.