The trial of five people in connection with the kidnapping of Marie-Eleni Grimsrud by her Norwegian father in April 2017 was referred to the Nicosia criminal court on Monday with the first hearing scheduled to take place on May 30.
The father is expected to be tried in Norway, but the Nicosia court will try five other people – three Cypriots and two foreign nationals – who face five charges in relation to the kidnapping.
The defendants have each signed a personal guarantee of €50,000, and will have to hand in their travel documents to the police. The five will also be placed on the stop-list, barring their exit from the island, and will have to present themselves twice-weekly at a specified police station.
Marie-Eleni, just four at the time, was kidnapped by her Norwegian father, 49-year-old Torkel Grimsrud, on April 27, 2017 outside her kindergarten in Dasoupoli, Nicosia after a custody dispute with Eleni Ioannou, his ex-wife and mother of Mari-Eleni.
The 49-year-old had sent an email to his ex-wife on the day of the kidnapping, saying he would spend a week with their daughter and then contact his lawyers to settle the custody issue.
Police were for months unable to locate the father and daughter, and though seven people had been arrested in connection with the abduction, they were later released as they denied any involvement.
In May, a European and international arrest warrant was issued for Grimsrud, while the Oslo district court ordered in August 2017 the immediate return of Marie-Eleni to Cyprus.
Marie-Eleni was found in Norway in October 2017, after her father surrendered to Norwegian police following lengthy negotiations, whereby Ioannou, 48, had agreed to a dialogue on future cooperation, which entailed that Marie-Eleni would have contact with both of her parents.
Grimsrud was released after being charged. The family’s lawyer explained that Grimsrud was forced to give up the child after his assets were frozen by a Norwegian court.
By October 13, 2017, Marie-Eleni had returned to the island, ending a massive campaign, which included online mobilisation and thousands of fliers across Cyprus which urged anyone with information to let the authorities know, as well as cooperation between the Cyprus and Norwegian police.
Marie was born in Norway on the insistence of her father, who felt that she would be entitled to more benefits that way. Two months after, Ioannou returned to Cyprus with her baby, and has been living on the island since. Marie speaks Greek and a bit of English but no Norwegian.
Her father travelled to Cyprus five to six times a year to visit. Marie and her mother would also travel to Norway three to four times a year.
But everything was turned upside down when Grimsrud, withheld Ioannou’s and his daughter’s passports forbidding them to leave the country when they last visited him on October 2015 for four days, at his request, in order to celebrate his birthday and visit a theme park.
The move caught Ioannou off guard as nothing until that moment led to her think that Grimsrud was not happy with their arrangement.
It was only after the intervention of Ioannou’s family and friends that contacted Cypriot authorities who issued an order for the immediate return of Marie and her mother to Cyprus, that they managed to return home via Sweden, 15 days later by using their identity cards.
The father then reported that his daughter had been kidnapped by Ioannou, but the claim was dismissed by authorities.
Since that incident, Marie remained in Cyprus and communicated with her father through Skype. The Cypriot court ruled that she should live in Cyprus with her mother. It also issued an order stipulating that she could travel outside the country only with the mother’s consent.
The father, according to the family, did not file for access but for custody in Norway. It was rejected as were four appeals.
The mother’s lawyer Laris Vrahimis, had told the Cyprus News Agency upon the girl’s return that Norwegian press had reported Grimsrud will most likely face child abuse charges.
If he is not charged in Norway for the kidnapping, the international arrest warrant issued against him may still be active so he can be tried in Cyprus if Grimsrud is subsequently arrested, Vrahimis said.