HAVANA — Cuba said Tuesday that it will turn over to the United States a Florida couple who allegedly kidnapped their own children from the mother's parents and fled by boat to Havana, ending days of drama that evoked memories of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle of more than a decade ago.
Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada told The Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Cuba had informed U.S. authorities of the country's decision to turn over Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn, and their two young boys.
She did not say when the handover would occur, but reporters saw Sharyn Hakken leaving the dock of Havana's Hemingway Marina in the back seat of a Cuban government vehicle and workers later said that all four Hakkens had been taken away.
An AP reporter spotted the family earlier Tuesday beside their boat at the marina. A man who resembled photographs of Joshua Michael Hakken yelled out "Stop! Stay back!" as the reporter approached, but there was no outward sign of tension or distress between the family members.
Tablada said the Foreign Ministry had informed U.S. diplomats on the island "of the Cuban government's willingness to turn over ... U.S. citizens Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn Patricia and their two minor sons."
She said Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens' presence on Sunday and that from that moment "diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained."
U.S. authorities say Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law's house north of Tampa. The boys' maternal grandparents had been granted permanent custody of the boys last week.
Hakken lost custody of his sons last year after a drug possession arrest in Louisiana and later tried to take the children from a foster home at gunpoint, authorities said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest on two counts of kidnapping; interference with child custody; child neglect; false imprisonment and other charges.