Sheremetyevo Police Hold Italian Parents

Date: 2005-06-07
Source: Moscow Times

An Italian couple were briefly detained at Sheremetyevo Airport after a flight attendant claimed that they had physically abused their newly adopted son on a flight from eastern Siberia, where the boy had lived in a children's home.

The incident Friday came just two days after prosecutors took a newly adopted boy away from an American couple after a woman at the Moscow hotel where they were staying claimed that he was being abused.

The Italian couple were detained and released after promising not to leave Moscow while investigators look into the female flight attendant's claim, Sheremetyevo Airport police spokeswoman Tatyana Bondareva said Monday.

The boy, who will turn 7 on Wednesday, was immediately placed in a hospital for examination, and he remained there Monday.

Bondareva said a decision on whether to pursue charges would be made by June 13. She refused to say what the charges might be.

The boy's mother denied any wrongdoing. She said the boy "was crying and screaming" on the flight from Barnaul, in the Altai region, because he was apparently afraid of flying. "I just told him to stay quiet. That's all. I did not beat him as the flight attendant said," she said, her voice shaking, by telephone.

The Italian Embassy asked the parents' names not be published, citing fears about inflaming the situation.

Italian Consul-General Enrico Nunziata said the substance of the allegations against the couple remained unclear and that the police refused to allow the embassy to review their documents about the case.

"We have not been given the opportunity to defend ourselves," he said.

He said the parents were allowed to see the boy only on Monday. "The only thing I can say is that the child was very happy to see his mother. I saw it myself," he said.

Ciro Favata, a representative of Associazione Chiara, which assisted the couple in the adoption, said another Italian couple who also adopted a child was on the same plane and told police that the boy had not been abused.

"These couples usually want the best for their child. They do not adopt them to abuse them," Favata said. "I have the feeling that public opinion in Russia is against adoptions and this case is being exaggerated," he said by telephone from Rome.

The U.S. Embassy expressed a similar sentiment after the American couple saw their 3-year-old son taken away last week. After Moskovsky Komsomolets published a front-page story with the headline "A Boy for Beating" on Friday, the embassy accused the newspaper of apparently attempting "to further inflame growing public hysteria over foreign adoptions."

The boy was put in a children's home, and prosecutors are considering whether to charge the American couple with child abuse.

International adoptions are coming under increasing fire amid calls by some senior officials to sharply restrict them following the death of an adopted boy in the United States. National media have played up the trial of Irma Pavlis, an adoptive mother from Illinois who was sentenced last month to 12 years in prison in the death of her 6-year-old Russian son. The mother admitted to hitting the boy.

The officials say children should be adopted by Russian parents, and the government last week kicked off a PR drive complete with a web site and television ads aimed at encouraging domestic adoptions.

Also last week, the Education and Science Ministry said it would not renew the accreditations of more than a dozen foreign agencies after determining that they had committed various violations.


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