Norway: Judge rules in favour of Christian couple, baby Ezekiel to be returned

The Bodnariu family.

A Norwegian judge has ruled that the baby son of the Bodnariu family should be reunited with his parents.

Ezekiel Bodnariu was removed from their custody with his four older siblings by Norway's controversial Barnevernet or child welfare service last November.

The judge also ruled that Marius and Ruth Bodnariu should see the two older boys twice a week for two hours at a time.

Marius, a Romanian, and Ruth, a Norwegian, were suspected of parental child abuse and religious indoctrination after one of the daughters told her headteacher that they spanked the children as a disciplinary measure.

Formerly members of the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church in Bucharest, Marius and Ruth moved to Norway 10 years ago to start a family there and live in Naustdal on the west coast. Corporal punishment is illegal in Norway, and schools are obliged to report it.

The case has highlighted other examples of Barnevernet removing children from their parents. Mixed or migrant families are particularly vulnerable.

A petition calling for the return of the Bodnariu children has drawn around 60,000 signatures and hundreds of Christians have demonstrated outside Norwegian embassies across Europe.

The family's spokesman, Pastor Cristian Ionescu, wrote in a statement: "This ruling is a step in the judicial process and does NOT end the Bodnariu's appeal or fight to regain full and unhindered custody of ALL of their FIVE children. The battle for the children continues!"

He encouraged supporters to join a day of protest on April 16.

Barnevernet has refused to comment on the case, citing privacy issues.