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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"Juan Miguel Gonzalez is eager to take his son to Cuba"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rob Watson reports
"The Miami relatives could still take their case to the Supreme Court in Washington"
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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Court rejects Elian asylum bid
Flagged up: Relatives say Elian must stay
A US appeals court has ruled that six-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez is not entitled to a political asylum hearing.

The verdict will be a blow to his Miami relatives who have been fighting a campaign to keep the child in the US.

The boy has been the subject of a long-running custody battle since he was rescued off the Florida coast in November. His mother and 10 others drowned while attempting to flee from Cuba.

The Cuban Government has given a cautious reaction to the ruling, criticising the fact that the boy has to remain in the US for at least another 14 days to allow his Miami family to appeal.

On Thursday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that immigration officials acted properly when they denied an asylum hearing for the boy.

The judges decided that only Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who wants to take his son back to Cuba, has the right to speak for his child.

Elian timeline
25 Nov 1999: Elian fished out of water off Miami coast
5 Jan 2000: Immigration rules father has rights over Elian
19 Jan: Miami relatives challenge immigration ruling
7 April: Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzales, arrives in US
19 April: Appeal judges rule Elian must remain in US for relatives' asylum appeal
27 April: Immigration officials seize Elian from relatives
11 May: Appeal hearing
1 June: Court of Appeals decision
There were emotional scenes outside the home in Little Havana, Miami, where Elian had once lived, after the court ruling was announced.

Protesters screamed and cried, with one saying that democracy and freedom had been "thrown to the trash".

The latest hearing was regarded as the last chance for the relatives to prevent Elian returning to what they regard as Fidel Castro's tyrannical regime.

The relatives argued that US law allows anyone, regardless of his or her age, to seek political asylum.

Government welcome

The US Attorney General Janet Reno welcomed Thursday's court decision.

"We have said all along that Elian belongs with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Today's ruling affirms that view," she said.

The US Immigration and Naturalisation Service decided in January that only the boy's father could speak for him on immigration matters.

US President Bill Clinton, on a trip to Europe, also welcomed the latest ruling.

"I have supported the Justice Department's conclusion that Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is the one best suited to speak for his child," President Clinton said. "I am pleased that the court has upheld the Justice Department's determination."

The six-year-old was placed in the care of his Miami relatives after surviving the shipwreck.

He was forcibly removed from his relatives' home by the authorities in April after they refused to obey court orders to hand him over.

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See also:

11 May 00 | Americas
Legal fight over Elian
01 May 00 | Americas
Millions demand Elian's return
26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
18 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's relatives at war
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What's life really like in Cuba?
01 Feb 00 | Americas
Tug-of-love over Elian
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