British prosecutors withdrew an arrest warrant for the parents of a cancer-stricken boy who removed him from a hospital in England without the consent of physicians to seek care abroad, officials said Tuesday.
Britain’s decision led Spanish officials to order the immediate release of Brett and Naghemeh King, who were arrested Sunday in Spain and faced extradition to Britain for taking their 5-year old-son, Ashya, from Southampton General Hospital on Thursday. They were wanted on suspicion of child neglect.
Ashya is suffering from brain cancer. His parents say they want him to receive proton beam therapy, a less invasive treatment than traditional radiation. Proton beam therapy wasn’t available to them within Britain’s state-run National Health Service, or NHS.
The case has captivated the British public and sparked concern and outrage on social media over how the Kings have been treated by police, prosecutors and NHS staff. While his parents were held behind bars awaiting a hearing in Madrid, Ashya was in a hospital several hundred miles away in Malaga.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service issued a statement Tuesday announcing its decision.
“No further action will be taken against Mr. and Mrs. King and we are now in the process of communicating this decision to the Spanish authorities so they can be reunited with their son as soon as possible,” the statement said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the move. Earlier in the day, he and his deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, expressed concern about the family.
Speaking on a British radio program, Cameron called for a “rapid outbreak of common sense,” and he said the images of Ashya reminded him of caring for his own son, Ivan, who suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy and who died in 2009 at age 6.
Hours before prosecutors announced their decision to withdraw the arrest warrant, Ashya’s older brother Naveed posted a video message on YouTube in which he directly thanked Cameron and Clegg for their comments. Naveed’s videos have been instrumental in communicating the family’s story.
“So many people are spending so many hours on social media spreading the word,” Naveed said, “and I’d just like to say thank you to everyone.”
Werth is a special correspondent.