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Malcolm Brabant in Miami
"It's effectively a holding action on the part of the campaigners working to keep Elian in the US"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 03:47 GMT
Elian relatives seek court ruling

Miami relative and Elian Elian's Miami relatives have temporary custody of him

The Miami relatives of six-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez have filed a petition to a federal to challenge a US Government decision to send him back to Cuba.

It is the latest twist in the custody battle between Elian's American relatives and his father back in Cuba.

Elian has been staying with relatives in Miami awaiting a resolution to the dispute which has enflamed relations between the US and communist Cuba.

Elian with balloon Elian: His mother died in the shipwreck
The District Court is being asked to grant a permanent injunction against immigration officials from sending Elian back to Cuba against his will, because "his life and freedom will be put in jeopardy".

"It is about protecting Elian's civil and constitutional rights, the same as if he was any other child," attorney Spencer Eig said.

The petition is effectively a holding action which does not seek to resolve where Elian should ultimately live.

Legal experts have expressed scepticism about the chances of the family's claim succeeding in federal court.

Elian was found floating on an inner tube after a shipwreck off Florida last November during an illegal attempt to reach the US in which his mother died.

Citizenship bid

The US immigration service, backed by Attorney General Janet Reno, says Elian belongs with his father, a Cuban tourism industry worker and only he can speak for him.

The Justice Department wants to resolve the case as quickly as possible for Elian's welfare, and also because it could face a new complication when the US Congress resumes next week.

A new law is being drafted to grant Elian US citizenship because as an American, he would not be bound by the rules on immigration.

US officials say they are happy for Elian's grandmothers to visit Miami and take him back to his father, who does not want to travel to the US.

The Cuban Government claims Elian has been kidnapped and has helped organise mass protests in Cuba demanding his return.

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba attacks Elian 'kidnapping'
16 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: Politics cloud Elian case
12 Jan 00 |  Americas
Reno backs Cuban boy's return
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuban mothers demand boy's return
11 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba boy ruling under fire
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Bizarre twist in custody battle

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