Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Palestinian Deported From US Seeks Custody Of Son
Jerusalem Post 7Apr00 P2
By Gil Hoffman
BEIT SAHOUR, WEST BANK, ISRAEL -- A Palestinian who joined the LDS
Church while living in the United States is seeking any help he can
get to get custody of his five-year-old son, Edward. The case of
Mohammed Shiabat, 38, is strikingly similar to the high-profile Elian
Gonzalez case now being negotiated at the highest levels of the U.S.
Government. Like Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Mohammed simply wants to get
his son."I ask God and the American government to be merciful to me
and give me back my son," Shiabat said yesterday. "Edward is my whole
world and he needs my love."
Shiabat left Israel in 1990 after he felt he was being harrassed by
Israeli police and had been arrested more than 20 times. "I never
attended a rally, I never threw one stone, but I wound up on a list
of troublemakers, so I decided to leave," Shiabat said. He got a
six-month visa to have oral surgery in Colorado and petitioned for
political asylum in the U.S. but later dropped the petition, and
decided to move to Australia. But Shiabat got into trouble before he
Whil staying in Las Vegas, Shiabat joined the LDS Church and married
an American woman, Debra. She bore their son, Edward, in February
1995, but died just over a year later, in July 1996 from a blood clot
following knee surgery. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service tracked Shiabat down, and sought to deport him. When he
refused to sign the documents that would allow his deportation, the
INS then jailed him. He says he feared returning to Israel because he
thought his family would disown him because he had joined a Christian
Because of his troubles with the INS, Shiabat signed an affidavit in
1996 giving custody of Edward to Maureen Caputo, 54, his wife's
friend. When he managed to get out of jail, he then asked Caputo to
return Edward, but she refused, claiming that he would stay with her
until Shiabat "got his life in order."
In recent months, Shiabat has been fighting the INS' deportation
order. LDS Church members and other supporters have fought for him to
stay in the United States, but he lost the battle in court on March
28th, and was returned to the West Bank March 29th, where he now
lives with his family. In spite of his fears, his family welcomed him
with open arms, and he is looking for work. He is also seeking
custody of his son.
Caputo has vowed to prevent Shiabat from taking Edward with him
overseas, "I would fight him right now if I had to, because I don't
think this is the right time for Edward to be taken away," she said
recently. She claims that Shiabat is using his son to return to the
U.S. and that he hardly knows his Father, "I don't think this is the
time for Edward to be taken away. It would devastate him," she said.
"Daddy is only a word for him. He does not know that man."
But Shiabat says that Edward knows and loves him. He also says he
appreciates what Caputo has done for his son, "I love [Caputo] like
my own sister," he said, "but I don't want her to come between me and
my son." But Caputo told the Las Vegas Review Journal that she is the
only caretaker Edward has ever known, and said she will fight to keep
custody. When Shiabat last tried to talk with Caputo, she hung up on
him, he says.