DOJ and State Dept opt out of international custody dispute centered on 5yro Calif. boy abducted by his mother in Greece #parent
Posted Jan 09 2011 1:06am
So sad how there are so many international custody cases that go under reported.I hope this father is reunited with his son soon;it's sad to hear the US State Department and Department of Justice are unwilling to help in this case, even though the father was awarded full custody of his son.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- George Petroutsas' quest to bring his 5-year-old son back to the United States from Greece has hit several roadblocks in recent months, but the Watsonville, Calif., native said Friday that he's not giving up on the custody dispute that has tugged his son between two countries for the boy's whole life.
"He's a victim here," Petroutsas said of his son, Andoni Petroutsas. Petroutsas and his attorney have contacted the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Attorney General's Office, but both agencies have so far declined to intervene.
"Basically, I'm getting doors slammed in my face left and right," Petroutsas said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has offered some promising possibilities, and Petroutsas and representatives from that organization hoped to work with the FBI on the case.
Andoni, a brown-haired boy who was set to start kindergarten this fall, is described as smart, fun-loving boy who is now bilingual in Greek and English.
On Aug. 31, a Santa Cruz, Calif., judge issued an arrest warrant for his mother, Despina Asvesta - although it's only enforceable if she steps foot on American soil. The warrant essentially cannot be served in Greece because there are not strong extradition agreements between Greece and the United States.
"At this point, they're doing nothing in Greece as far as I can tell," said Petroutsas' attorney, Athena Roussos. "We're trying to think outside the box, but basically it's the Greek government that has to do something about this."
Petroutsas has not gone to Greece to pick up the boy because a court there decided that he abducted Andoni from Greece - which he denies - and he fears his arrest.
Petroutsas, a Greek and American dual citizen, married Asvesta in 2002.
The couple had Andoni in May 2005 and later split up, launching a protracted legal battle that has involved Santa Cruz Superior Court and has shuttled Andoni from Greece to the U.S. and back again many times.
Andoni's mother now lives in Greece and Petroutsas had lived in Capitola, Calif., until this past summer, when he moved to Redwood City. He said he is about to open a Greek cafe in Los Altos, and he had planned to enroll Andoni in a Portola Valley elementary school.
In April 2010, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., awarded full custody of the boy to Petroutsas, but the judge allowed Asvesta to take Andoni on one final, six-week stint in Greece.
Petroutsas' attorney argued that if the boy went to Greece, he would not return, and Petroutsas would have little, if any, recourse. That is exactly what happened, and now Petroutsas blames Judge Jeremy Fogel for the decision.
Fogel declined to comment on the case on Friday, but he acknowledged that Asvesta would face penalties if she returned to the U.S.
"There's a lot of things I'd like to say, but I'm not permitted because it's an ethical issue," Fogel said.
In recent months, Petroutsas and his attorney asked California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep Sam Farr, D-Carmel, to look into the matter. Feinstein and Farr contacted the Attorney General's Office; a representative of the attorney general wrote back to say it would not get involved.
Farr sent a letter in June 2010 to the U.S. Embassy in Athens asking for help, but the state department has said there is little it can do because it requires the cooperation of Greek authorities.
Asvesta, for her part, said in an e-mail to the Santa Cruz Sentinel in August 2010 that the custody dispute is a complicated matter, and she raised questions about her ex-husband's behavior.
She sought legal relief in Greece, and claimed that Petroutsas had abducted Andoni from Greece before 2010. The court agreed with Asvesta, but Petroutsas has denied the abduction and called it a "kangaroo court."