- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2000

A federal court failed again yesterday to rule in the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, as the war of words escalated between those who believe the 6-year-old should be returned to Cuba and others who think he ought to remain in the United States.
Tempers rose after a U.S.-hired pediatrician said Elian plucked from the sea in November after his mother had drowned said the boy was being psychologically abused by his Miami relatives and should be removed from their care immediately.
"I believe there is no justification whatsoever to wait any longer" before removing Elian from his Miami relatives, said Dr. Irwin Redlener in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Commissioner Doris M. Meissner.
The professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York said the boy "continues to be horrendously exploited in this bizarre and destructive ambiance," in which crowds of reporters and cameramen daily watch him at play in the yard of a Little Havana bungalow.
It was Dr. Redlener, who is also the president of the Children's Health Fund, who assembled a team of mental health experts that met last week with Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez.
His comments were rejected by the Miami relatives, who charged the boy would suffer psychologically if he was returned to Cuba. Doctors for the relatives noted that Dr. Redlener had not examined Elian personally.
"We denounce and strongly oppose statements made by individuals who have been expressing medical or psychological judgment without following the most basic rules of medical ethics and care," said Dr. Jose Carro, president of the Cuban Pediatric Society in Exile.
The debate raged as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta considered a Justice Department motion to order the Miami relatives to give up the boy although the department has said it will keep Elian in this country until all pending legal disputes are resolved if the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is granted custody.
Attorneys for the Miami relatives want to block Elian's return to Cuba until a court in Washington can determine whether the island nation is in compliance with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
Attorney George Fowler, who represents the boy's great-uncle, has said that if returned to Cuba, Elian "would face the risk of being persecuted for having sought asylum in the United States."
The appeals court had placed a temporary injunction on Elian's return to Cuba.
The Justice Department has not said what it will do if the court rules in its favor, although Mrs. Meissner has said the agency would "take action in a way that's appropriate to the situation when we're ready." The department has said it will enforce the order, but would try to do so in a way that would not result in violence by anti-Castro demonstrators in Miami or be traumatic to Elian.
The delay by the appeals court in deciding the issue surprised some court observers, although several said that any decision by the judges was sure to receive critical review and probably would be challenged.
Meanwhile, Miami Mayor Joe Carollo traveled to Washington yesterday to complain about an assault Friday night against Cuban-Americans outside the Cuban Interests Section on 16th Street NW.
The mayor, speaking to reporters on the street outside the Cuban facility in a driving rain, said 15 Cubans from inside the section, whom he described as "thugs," attacked the "peaceful demonstrators" in an unprovoked assault, during which several people were injured.
A Metropolitan Police Department report said the incident occurred at about 7:30 p.m. Friday when "10 unidentified Cuban employees of the mission came out and began to assault the demonstrators on the front sidewalk." The report said there were about 20 Cuban-Americans on the streets protesting Elian's return to Cuba.
There were no arrests and no serious injuries reported. Cuban officials at the facility were interviewed by D.C. police but refused to provide a list of names of those who were involved.
Some of the demonstrators said yesterday that two uniformed Secret Service officers responded to the melee and separated the Cubans and the protesters. They said the officers, one of whom received minor injuries, prevented the protesters from being seriously hurt.
Secret Service spokesman John Tomlinson said a preliminary review of the incident showed that a verbal altercation between the two groups escalated into a physical confrontation and that the two uniformed officers "intervened in a responsible manner to restore order and prevent injury."
D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile yesterday said the department had begun an inquiry into the incident, which is being investigated as a simple assault. He did not elaborate.

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