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Russian in court over daughter's abduction

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15:53 CET+01:00
Irina Belenkaya, a Russian who kidnapped her seven-year-old daughter from the girl's French father in 2009, went on trial on Tuesday in southern France.

Belenkaya faces charges of kidnapping and complicity in assault against Jean-Michel André, the child's father.    

The trial is the latest step in a five-year battle between Belenkaya and André over their daughter. The couple divorced in 2007.

Prosecutors are calling for a three-year sentence.

The girl was abducted on March 20, 2009 by two men and a woman in the southern French city of Arles, where she lived with her father. André was badly beaten during the kidnapping.

In January 2008, French authorities issued an arrest warrant against Belenkaya, but a few months later André took matters into his own hands and went to Moscow to collect his daughter.

André appeared unsettled at the case opening Tuesday, and will represent himself because he does not have money to hire an attorney.

His request for a closed hearing to "protect his daughter" was denied because prosecutors said in earlier stages the father had played a role in creating the media frenzy surrounding the bitter custody battle.

"Elise is now seven years old, and much more exposed than when she was three," André said.

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