Reunion photo is called a fake by Miami kin

Elian's hairline, clothing are proof, cousin claims

April 24, 2000|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Unable to believe the little boy they claimed for their own and kept for five months is happy with his father, Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives charged yesterday that a photograph released Saturday of a smiling Elian reunited with his Cuban family is a fake.

"The picture -- that is not Elian," said his cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez at a news conference in Washington.

But the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches vouched for the picture's authenticity on ABC's "This Week" yesterday morning. And a Miami Herald examination of the photo found no signs of fakery.

Photos of Elian with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his stepmother and baby brother were released Saturday by the father's attorney, Gregory Craig. The Miami relatives focused on one that shows the four family members together. A smiling Elian has his arm around his father.

Marisleysis Gonzalez said the proof the photo is phony is Elian's hairline. His hair in the reunion photo is longer than his hair in a photo taken by the Associated Press during the raid, she said.

She also said that in the reunion photo, Elian was wearing a different shirt from the one he was wearing when he left the Gonzalez home in Little Havana.

But the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Saturday that agents provided Elian with a change of clothes. And Campbell, a supporter of Elian's father, told ABC that she was with father and son after their reunion and saw that he was wearing the shirt he had on in the photo.

Bill Andrews, electronic imaging editor for the Herald, analyzed the reunion photo for authenticity Saturday before it was accepted for publication. It appears completely legitimate, he said. The signs point not to fraud, but a cheap camera -- probably a disposable camera -- with plastic lens, he said.

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