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Mother acquitted of child abduction

A Winnipeg woman has been found not guilty of child abduction for spiriting her four-year-old son away on an overseas trip without her husband's knowledge or consent.

The details came out in a provincial court trial that ended Wednesday with Judge Lee Ann Martin ruling the mother's behaviour did not amount to criminal activity.

Many facts were not in dispute. To protect the child's identity, a court-ordered ban prevents the woman's name from being published.

The 43-year-old mother moved to Canada in 2000 from her native Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. She met her 63-year-old husband in Winnipeg in 2004 and gave birth to their son a year later.

In 2009, she wanted to return to Kyrgyzstan to visit her ailing mother. She wanted to bring her son with her, but her husband insisted she stay in Winnipeg. He was concerned about safety and medical issues and an "unstable political environment" in Kyrgyzstan.

He based his opinion, court was told, on a 2007 six-month visit his wife and son had in the country.

"The absence of (the accused) and their son was unbearable for him -- he felt lonely and depressed. When they returned home, he told her that she could never go back," Martin said in her written decision.

"He testified: 'I made it clear to her that under no circumstances would I agree for her to go back to Kyrgyzstan.'"

The woman told court she was upset and found her husband's stand unfair. So she secretly booked a flight to Kyrgyzstan for herself and her son. A return flight for three weeks later was also purchased.

She claimed she dropped subtle hints to her husband, including leaving her luggage and tickets laying around, hoping he would notice and give his consent. But he testified he never saw any of those items and had no clue what his wife was planning.

He called 911 on March 6, 2009 after his wife said she was going shopping with her son, then never came home. In phone calls to family, he learned she was en route to Kyrgyzstan.

Winnipeg police quickly tracked down the woman and her son in London, England, where they were waiting to transfer flights. She then called her husband and asked for permission to continue the trip. He refused.

At that point, the she agreed to abort her trip and fly home. Upon arrival in Winnipeg, she was arrested and charged with child abduction.

She testified she never would have gone if "she knew he was going to be so upset." She said she was consumed with worry about her elderly mother's health but always intended to call her husband as soon as she got to Kyrgyzstan.

She and her husband are now separated, have a joint-custody agreement and get along well, court was told.

The judge ruled Wednesday this entire episode was a poorly handled exercise in parenting, but not criminal conduct.

"It is clear that she really wanted to visit her family and felt that she was being denied this right unfairly. Her desire to visit her family became her main focus to the exclusion of all other rational and logical behaviour."

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