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6 May, 2009 15:19

Russian mother of kidnapped girl to be extradited to France

The Court of Budapest has decided to extradite Russian citizen Irina Belenkaya, who is now imprisoned in Hungary for kidnapping her daughter, to France.

Belenkaya – the mother of 3 year-old Elise Andre – is suspected of kidnapping her daughter from her spouse, French citizen Jean-Michelle André, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday with a reference to France Presse.

From the 23 of March, the French authorities were searching for the girl’s mother through Interpol. On the night of April 13, Belenkaya and her daughter were detained at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. The girl was handed over to her father, while Irina had to stand trial in Hungary.

The lawyers defending Irina Belenkaya will appeal the Court’s decision, RIA Novosti reports.

“Extradition will not take place, because the defense, represented by Robert Fridman, said it was going to appeal the Court’s decision immediately after it was announced,” said Irina Zvonova, a press attache of the Russian Embassy in Hungary.

She also added that the appeal would be made within “two-three days.” According to her, Belenkaya will remain in jail in Budapest until the appeal is considered.

Irina Zvonova is not sure how long it might take the Court to consider the appeal.

Possible truce

Later on Wednesday, according to Interfax, Irina Belenkaya signed an agreement with the French father of the girl – Jean-Michel André. The agreement has been prepared by lawyers representing both sides.

Belenkaya put her signature on the document upon the completion of the judicial hearing in Budapest. Now, the father is to do the same.

“As she promised, Irina has signed the agreement resulting from our long negotiations. Now the ball is on the other side, and I hope that Mr. André will show his good will,” Anatoly Kucherena said in Budapest. Kucherena is a lawyer and a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation who is mediating between the spouses in this conflict.

“I consider it as a good sign and the right step that Irina has taken. Unfortunately, a great distrust still exists between Irina and Mr. Andre. However, for the sake of her child, she is ready to make certain concessions,” he added.

Anatoly Kucherena did not comment on the contents of the agreement but noted that “implementation of this document will enable Irina and Jean-Michel to restore trust and establish normal relationships to fulfill their parental duties.”

According to Kucherena, the agreement suggests equal rights for both parents for their daughter, who became the reason for the rift in this international family.

“It is expected that until the age of six, Elise will be spending equal time with her mother and father,” said Kucherena.

Russian investigators have questions for father

Meanwhile, Russian investigators hope to put their own questions to Jean-Michel André. According to Anatoly Bagmet – Head of the Investigations Department at the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office, and quoted by ITAR-TASS – they have informed the father’s lawyer that when he returns to Moscow they need to question Jean-Michel André as a witness, “to be able to make a lawful decision.”

“We continue our investigation, examine all the circumstances and obviously we need to interrogate André himself, to be able to make a lawful decision on the case,” said Anatoly Bagmet.

Answering the question of whether a possible agreement on a lawsuit between the spouses would be able to make any difference as the case progresses in Russia, he noted that, “we act strictly in accordance with the law. Still, it would certainly be much better for this issue to be settled peacefully between the spouses.”

A criminal case was filed on September 23 2008 by the Investigations Department of the local Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow when Yelizaveta Andre was reported kidnapped. The subsequent investigation has shown that Jean-Michel André, accompanied by several other persons, had taken the child and left Russia.

The report indicates that the girl was kidnapped on the 22 of September 2008 during the day by two strangers while she was walking in the yard on Moscow’s Festivalnaya street with her nanny. Some data suggest that Liza and her father departed from one of Moscow’s airports for a flight to France. Later, already in France, Jean-Michel confessed he had taken the girl.

Little Liza, or Elise, was thrust into the headlines after she was repeatedly snatched back-and-forth in a tug-of-war between her Russian mother and French father. Her name is Liza if you ask her mom and Elise if you ask her dad.

She is three and a half years old and has already been kidnapped three times. Her father has been beaten up and her mother has been arrested in Hungary.