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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant
"A major victory for the US Government"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 21:19 GMT
Elian asylum case dismissed
Elian Gonzalez
The Miami relatives will appeal against the ruling
Six-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez - at the centre of an international custody dispute - is a step closer to being returned to his father in Cuba after a long-awaited court ruling.

A US judge on Tuesday dismissed a petition by his Miami relatives seeking a political asylum hearing for the boy.

Elian's father - and the Cuban authorities - want him back in Cuba, while emigre family members in Florida want him to remain in the US.

The boy was shipwrecked off Miami last November during an illegal attempt to reach the US.

Elian's mother and 10 other would-be emigres died in the accident, while Elian and two other survivors came ashore clinging to the wreckage.

Elian Gonzales
Florida relatives say Elian will have a better life with them
The asylum application was the latest legal attempt by Elian's relatives in Florida to block moves by the US immigration authorities to return him to Cuba.

The family in Miami argued that Elian would face immediate psychological and physical harm if repatriated.


Judge Michael Moore ruled that he had jurisdiction over the case, and that the relatives had legal standing to bring the petition to court.

But he dismissed the petition on its merits, ruling that Attorney-General Janet Reno must make the final decision on Elian's case - the position which has been held by the US Government from the start of the case.

Demonstration in Havana
Many Cubans have called for Elian's return
Later on Tuesday, Ms Reno said it was time for the boy to be returned to Cuba.

"It is time for this little boy who has been through so very much to move on with life at his father's side," she said.

The attorney-general said that the judge's ruling "reaffirms our position that only Elian's father can speak for his son on federal immigration matters."

"The court also recognised the importance of family reunification and protecting the bond between the son and his sole surviving parent," she said.


A lawyer acting for Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great-uncle, has said he is ready to appeal against the decision.

Though it is possible that the appeal will overturn Judge Moore's ruling, legal experts in Miami say the most critical step in any battle of this kind is to win the opening round, as the government has done.

The government insists that the boy's place is with his father, who remains in Cuba.

The Miami relatives have said they would appeal against an unfavourable court ruling.

The Cuban Government welcomed the judge's decision.

"We must analyse with serenity and calm the apparently positive news, without underestimating the obstacles and difficulties we still need to overcome in order to achieve the kidnapped boy's return to Cuba," a government statement said.

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03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
20 Jan 00 | Americas
Clinton enters row over Cuba boy
24 Dec 99 | Americas
Cuba attacks custody battle delay
11 Dec 99 | Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
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