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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Elian's return to his father shifted the legal balance"
 real 28k

Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Legal fight over Elian
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Flagged up: Relatives say Elian must stay
Miami relatives of Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez took their battle to keep the child in the United States to an Atlanta appeals court on Thursday.

They argued that six-year-old Elian should be granted a political asylum hearing against the wishes of his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who wants to take him back to Cuba.


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

The boy was recovered from the sea in November last year and placed in the care of his Miami relatives after surviving the shipwreck of a boat of would-be Cuban immigrants. His mother and 10 others died in the crossing.

Arguing for the Miami relatives, lawyer Kendall Coffey told the court the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) - which ruled in January that Elian was too young to apply for asylum - had violated correct procedures.

"The evidence we have before you is that this child did want to stay here," he said.


Elian and father
Court case: Elian and his father
He added that if Elian returned to Cuba, he would be forced to repudiate his dead mother, who would be viewed as a "traitor" in Cuba because she left the island illegally.

But Gregory Craig, lawyer for Elian's father, said the INS made the right ruling.

He said: "The INS got it right and the decision is supported by common sense, common law and our constitution."

He urged the court to let the "cloud lift" from the family and added "let's just get this over with."

The presiding judge in the case, James Edmondson, told the court a ruling would be made in the next few weeks.

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See also:

01 May 00 | Americas
Millions demand Elian's return
29 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian protests split Miami
27 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's father enters court battle
26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Analysis: Elian divides America
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