A woman (46) from Bruges has been sentenced to four years in prison for kidnapping her own son and refusing to let the boy's father see him for several years.
The woman, identified as Elizabeth M., and her ex-husband have been involved in a legal battle over the custody of their son since 2012.
However, M. has ignored almost every court ruling, and refused to take the child to his father for years, until she was given a one-year prison sentence in 2016, reports local newspaper De Krant van West-Vlaanderen.
However, when the juvenile court decided that she would only be allowed to see her son in a common visiting room, she fled with the then 10-year-old child to the United States without the father's knowledge.
The Belgian court had the woman signalled for parental abduction, but the authorities only managed to find her after she asked for help from the embassy in the US to return to Belgium.
On 29 July, she was arrested during a layover in Portugal. Eventually, her son landed in Brussels Airport Zaventem on 3 September, where he was reunited with his father.
"My client is now providing a rest period [for the boy]," the father's lawyer said. "He goes back to school and is doing well. He has a good basis, but in recent years he has fallen behind in his learning."
"In the United States, they moved several times. The last six months, they even stayed in a warehouse and the child no longer went to school," the lawyer added.
On Thursday morning, the court granted the child's father €7,500 in damages. A total sentence of 40 months was requested for the woman, but the judge added eight extra months, sentencing her to four years in prison, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.
The extra months were partially due to the fact that she did not show any regret during her previous hearing, even going as far as saying she did not want her son to have any contact with "that asshole."
The woman claimed that the man tried to kill her once while she was pregnant with their son. Her lawyer asked for an acquittal, saying that she "had no faith in the father and only wanted what was best for her son."
Despite the claims, however, the public prosecutor's office stressed the boy's father is entirely unknown to the authorities as he has no criminal record.
The Brussels Times