Custody Battle Plays out across Ocean; U.S. Boys at Issue in Finnish Case
Byline: Davrell Roberts Tien, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
OULU, Finland - Two South Carolina boys have languished for almost two months in the high-security ward of a children's psychiatric unit while the courts sort out a custody battle between their American father and Finnish mother.
The mother, whose case initially won wide sympathy in her native Finland, has reportedly been seen pacing through the pine trees outside the institution in Oulu, hoping to catch a glimpse of her sons through the windows.
The father, meanwhile, says he repeatedly has had to warn the boys, ages 10 and 13, against trying to steal a set of keys for a breakout, and that he still hopes to have his sons back in South Carolina for Christmas.
The legal imbroglio, which has become an embarrassment in the eyes of many Finns, began when the boys' mother, Outi Koski, brought her sons to Finland in 2003 for a summer vacation, concealing her plans to remain in the country with them.
The divorced father, 48-year-old chemical engineer John Rogers, went to court in Finland seeking his sons' return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty that provides for the return of children in such disputes to their "habitual residence" within six weeks.
But it took that long just for Finnish authorities to recognize Mr. Rogers' petition and another five months before the Court of Appeals of Helsinki ruled in favor of Mrs. Koski, saying she could keep the boys in Finland.
The Supreme Court overturned that decision, and the boys, Jake and Alex Rogers, should have gone home to South Carolina in August 2004. But Mrs. Koski, backed by an upwelling of nationalist support, went underground, hiding her sons on a farm owned by a sympathetic radio-station personality.
Law-enforcement officials finally seized the boys on Oct. 20 of this year, and a doctor sent them for evaluation to Finland's Oulu University Hospital children's psychiatric unit.
By the time Mr. Rogers reached Finland to bring them home, Mrs. Koski had won a stay of enforcement in Kajaani District Court. She ultimately was turned down by that court, but within hours the Eastern Finland Court of Appeals in Kuopio had agreed to consider her appeal. …