French dad 'occupies' crane to publicise custody battle

Feb 18, 2013, 07:00 IST | Agencies

In a desperate act of protest, a father in France's western city of Nantes has mounted a 40-metre crane two years after first losing custody of his son.

Braving the winter weather, a man identified as 43-year-old Serge Charnay has camped out on the structure for more than 24 hours, and was joined on Saturday by a friend locked in a similar legal battle.

For my boy: Serge Charnay stands on a 43-metre crane and waves a banner that reads ‘Benoît, two years without a dad’ in Nantes, France on the third day of a protest for his rights as a father. Pics/AFP

Charnay climbed the giant yellow crane in the Port of Nantes during the early hours of Friday, using the morning fog for cover. After reaching a lower platform, Charnay unfurled a banner on which he had scrawled a message in big block letters: “Benoît, two years without a dad”.

Charnay has struggled in vain over the past two years to win back the right to see his son. He lost custody and all visiting rights when he was accused of kidnapping the boy after taking him on a month-long vacation.

Authorities have tried, unsuccessfully, to entice Charnay off the crane. A team of crisis negotiators intervened, attempting to demonstrate a bit of good will on behalf of the justice system.

“His message of suffering has been understood; there is always a solution even if the solution is long,” said Patrick Lapouze, sub-prefect of the Loire-Atlantique department. “He’s asking for his situation to be reviewed because he feels as though he is at an impasse, which, after speaking with the justice system, is frankly not really the case.”

Unconvinced, Charnay has refused to budge from his perch. His friend Nicolas Moreno has since occupied another crane a few hundred metres away. Like Charnay, Moreno is in a legal battle for the right to see his own two sons, Evan and Lucas.

“It’s an act of solidarity in support of the first father up on the crane, and in support of all fathers who want to take care of their children,” Moreno’s mother, Brigitte said. A demonstration in support of Charnay and Moreno has been planned in Nantes for Wednesday, February 20.

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