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idnapped French Girl, 3, Found with Mother in Hungary

Father, Mother in Custody Battle

April 13, 2009

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) - A 3-year-old girl who was kidnapped last month while walking with her father in France has been found in Hungary with her mother, police said Monday.

The Russian mother and French father are involved in a custody battle over the child.

The mother and child were detained early Sunday afternoon while trying to cross the Hungarian border to Ukraine from the town of Tiszabecs, a Hungarian police spokesman said.

Article Photos

This undated photo provided by French police authorities shows a girl who French authorities identify as 3-year-old Elise. Jean-Michel Andre, father of Eilise, said two unidentified men assaulted him then took the girl away last Friday. Andre accuses the mother, who is Russian, of organizing the kidnapping. (AP Photo)

The mother was in custody in the city of Nyiregyhaza 155 miles (250 kilometers) east of Budapest, and her daughter was taken to a nearby children's home, said county police spokesman Gergely Fulop by telephone from Nyiregyhaza.

"This is a success story for the Hungarian police," Fulop said, adding that the mother would likely be handed over to French authorities.

He said the mother and child were detained at the border because a European Union database used when checking travel documents indicated that the mother was wanted in connection with a crime, and that the girl had gone missing and was the object of a search.

The father's lawyer, Victor Gioia, said he spoke to his client by telephone on Monday afternoon after he'd picked up his daughter at the children's home. It was not immediately clear whether he will be able to return to France with her, but Gioia said it was likely, as both countries belong to the Schengen agreement, which allows visa-free travel between states.

The child was kidnapped March 20 as she and her father were walking near their home in Arles, in southern France. French media reported that two men attacked the father while the child was spirited away.

While the parents were in divorce proceedings in 2007, French courts gave the child's custody to the father. The mother took the child to Russia and the father went there and took the child back to Arles.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.



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