ROME (JTA) — A new petition is urging the U.S. government to help find and return four children whose Jewish mother illegally abducted them from Italy to Russia.
The petition, which was launched over the weekend by supporters of the father and addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calls on the State Department to work with the Russian Foreign Minister to resolve the case. Supporters of the father, Michael McIlwrath, an American lawyer based in Florence, Italy, a few months ago set up a website to push their case.
In December 2010, following bitter divorce proceedings, an Italian court granted sole custody of the children to McIlwrath. According to court documents, the mother, Marianne Grin, who has dual Russian and American citizenship, had been found mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to care for the children.
During a court-approved vacation week with the children at the end of August 2011, Grin, who was affiliated with Chabad in Florence, illegally took the children from Italy to her native St. Petersburg, Russia. She placed the children into Chabad-run institutions, defying a court order specifically forbidding either parent to take the children out of Italy without the other parent’s consent.
Interviewed in St. Petersburg two months ago for an Italian television news report, Grin said she had taken the children out of Italy by car, using their Russian passports.
Earlier last year, Grin had accused McIlwrath, who is not Jewish, of having been physically abusive to the children. She also claimed that the Italian court decision that had awarded him custody was influenced by anti-Semitism.
On the Italian TV news report, Grin refused to allow the children to view a video message from McIlwrath and said she had the financial resources to take the children elsewhere to keep them away from their father.