A French father was granted custody of his two children by the Iranian justice after a bitter dispute with his wife that saw him separated from his children, Diane, now 12 and son, Etienne nine, according to a newspaper report.
Dany Laurent, from the eastern French city of Besançon, was reunited with his children nearly two weeks ago after they were kidnapped in 2006 and taken to Iran by his former wife, Fatemah, despite a court order, reported The National on Monday.
Fatemah who is also a French schoolteacher like Laurent, obtained passports for the children in Besançon as well as Iranian visas at the consulate in Bern across the Swiss border.
According to The National, Laurent’s plight got attention when French media saw similarities between his case and thatof an American woman, Betty Mahmoody, who smuggled her child out of Iran amid bitter conflict with her Iranian husband. She wrote a book on her experience which later was turned into a film with the same, “Not Without My Daughter”.
Laurent’s case, however, had the full support of the Iranian justice as he was able to convince authorities to grant him custody of his children.
At one point in the legal process, an Iranian court in the Tehran suburb of Karaj, the home of Fatemah’s family, revised a previous intention to close the file after hearing the pleadings of Laurent and his Franco-Iranian lawyer.
“You are not a Muslim but, when I was a prisoner in Iraq, my life was saved by a Christian Iraqi doctor. You're a human being, a father searching for his children and I will do my duty,” said the Iranian judge, remembering his experiences during and after the Iran-Iraq war.
Fatemah was convicted of illegally taking the children to Iran and faced three years in jail. However, Laurent took the judge’s advice not to seek her imprisonment.
The court also rejected the accusation against Laurent by his former wife for sexually molesting and hurting their daughter saying the accusation was baseless.
Laurent’s lawyer warned him that the police may not hand over his children as they are Muslims and cannot be raised as non-Muslim. The French father then converted to Islam.
Laurent’s case was received differently in Iran as it was handled in France.
He said the French authorities gave him little hope even though both children had French nationality and were in social security care pending a gradual return to paternal custody as ordered by the courts.
Laurent said he took heart from his understanding that according to Iranian law, in an event of divorce between parents a child