A pediatrician who is advising the U.S. government on the Elian Gonzalez case says the boy is being psychologically abused by his Miami relatives and should be removed from their home immediately.
"Elian Gonzalez is now in a state of imminent danger to his physical and emotional well-being in a home that I consider to be psychologically abusive," Dr. Irwin Redlener wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno and Doris Meissner, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.
"The child needs to be rescued," Redlener, professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.
Redlener, who assembled the panel of mental health experts that met last week with Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, said he was particularly disturbed by the videotape the relatives made of the boy that was released last week, which Redlener likened to a hostage video. He also said the family was making unfounded allegations against the boy's Cuban father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
The family reiterated its argument that government experts can't form any valid opinions since none of them have talked to Elian.
"I don't know how one can reach decisions and express them in language as strong as this without seeing the boy," Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, an attorney for the Florida relatives, told ABC's "Good Morning America."
"'Radical hysteria' is the way he describes this environment," Garcia-Pedrosa said. "He hasn't been there. He hasn't spoken with anybody who lives there."
Mental health experts working with the Miami relatives have said the boy will suffer psychologically if he is sent back to communist-controlled Cuba with his father. The Miami relatives have cared for him since November, when he was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast. His mother and 10 other people fleeing Cuba drowned when their boat sank.
The Justice Department has pushed for Elian's return to his father, who has been in the Washington area since April 6 hoping for a reunion.
The Miami relatives are asking for the court to order an asylum hearing for the boy, while the government wants the court to lift a temporary order that bars Elian's removal from the United States and to order Lazaro Gonzalez to release the boy. Such a ruling could allow the government to take immediate action.
Miami Mayor Joe Carollo said he planned to fly to Washington Tuesday and meet with government officials about the custody dispute.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, the leader of the exile community's Democracy Movement, said the family is still interested in meeting with Elian's father at a neutral site, without attorneys and government officials - and without Elian.
The INS last week revoked Lazaro Gonzalez's custody over the boy after the family defied an INS order to make Elian available for a trip to Washington.
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