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Freed British parents reunited with ill son in Spain

Brett and Naghemeh King (C) arrive at the Regional University Hospital in Malaga on September 3, 2014 to try to see their five-year-old son, Ashya
Brett and Naghemeh King (C) arrive at the Regional University Hospital in Malaga on September 3, 2014 to try to see their five-year-old son, Ashya

The British parents jailed after taking their critically-ill son Ashya King from hospital enjoyed an emotional reunion with him at his bedside in Spain on Wednesday but were barred from taking formal custody of him for now.

Brett King, 51, and his wife Neghemeh King, 45, saw their five-year-old son for the first time since they walked free, following the lifting of an extradition order against them by British prosecutors.

"He was so pleased to see us, when he saw us he couldn't breathe. He couldn't believe it," Brett King told AFP as he left the hospital in the southern Spanish city of Malaga with his lawyers.

"He's actually not in such a good state as when we left him. He doesn't move so much," he added. "He's been without his parents so long that he's gone depressed."

People pass in front of the Regional University Hospital in Malaga on September 3, 2014 where five-year-old Ashya King was placed after Spanish police arrested his parents
People pass in front of the Regional University Hospital in Malaga on September 3, 2014 where five-year-old Ashya King was placed after Spanish police arrested his parents

Officials warned the parents must wait for a custody ruling to know whether they can take him away from the hospital to seek the alternative treatment they wanted for his brain tumour.

Brett King said he did not know how long the custody process would last but he and his family would stay with Ashya in Malaga for "however long it takes".

The couple were detained on Saturday for having taken Ashya, who has a brain tumour, out of a British hospital without doctors' consent.

Brett King had said he feared he would not be allowed to see Ashya because an English court has had legal custody of the boy since last week when his parents took him to Spain.

But a hospital official who asked not to be named told AFP the parents "can stay with him the whole time but they will not be able to take him out of the hospital until the custody issue is resolved".

The top health official for the Andalusia region where Malaga is located, Maria Jose Sanchez, told reporters her department had been contacted by a court in Portsmouth, southern England, and would have to consult with the justice ministry before taking "the appropriate decisions" on custody of Ashya.

The couple had been held under an international warrant for taking Ashya out of hospital in the southern English city of Southampton after disagreeing with doctors about his cancer treatment.

"He hasn't got too many months to live and we're locked away in a cell," the father told reporters. "We are just trying to speed things up to help him."

- Treatment and love -

King said Wednesday he believed the radiotherapy treatment planned by doctors in England would have turned Ashya into a "vegetable".

A pediatrician from the Southampton hospital that treated Ashya, Peter Wilson, denied that, saying: "It is our job to do the very best not just for the child but for the family. It goes to show how stressed they are as a family. "

He said doctors raised the alarm out of "absolute medical concern" because they thought Ashya's condition could deteriorate.

Brett King told reporters as he left hospital that he would meet with a cancer specialist on Thursday.

The Kings want Ashya to undergo an alternative treatment called proton beam therapy. Brett King said the family planned to sell its apartment in Malaga to fund the therapy.

The Kings' legal troubles prompted an outpouring of public support in Britain, where some 130,000 people signed a petition calling for the boy to be reunited with his parents.

Prosecutors had said they suspected the parents of "cruelty," but the British Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday it was withdrawing the warrant as Ashya had been properly looked after.

British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed news that the case had been dropped, saying on his Twitter feed: "It's important this little boy gets treatment & the love of his family."

Ashya's brother Daniel King told the BBC that Ashya was set to travel to the Proton Therapy Centre (PTC) in Prague to receive specialist treatment.

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