A Spanish judge has ordered the immediate release from custody of two British parents detained in Madrid for taking their seriously ill child out of hospital, a court source said on Tuesday, speeding a reunion with their five-year-old son.
The high-profile case of the parents' arrest and separation from their son prompted British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to call for "an outbreak of common sense" amid widespread condemnation in the country's media of the British police's pursuit of the couple.
The parents of Ashya King, who has a brain tumour, were separated from their son on Saturday, following a two-day cross-border manhunt initiated after they ignored medical advice and removed him from a hospital in Southampton, southern England, and took him to Spain.
A Spanish court source told Reuters early today 9NZ time) that a judge had ordered the immediate unconditional release from a Madrid jail of Naghemeh and Brett King. Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it was taking steps to withdraw the European arrest warrant for the couple.
"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 that they can be reunited with their son as soon as possible," the CPS said.
Cameron had earlier expressed sympathy for the couple's plight but said the government could not tell the police either in Britain or Spain what to do.
He welcomed the decision to drop the prosecution against the boy's parents via a message on Twitter. "It's important this little boy gets treatment and the love of his family," he said.
The boy's parents have said they took him out of hospital because they wanted him to receive a different type of treatment, prompting questions about whether the British police overreacted in launching a Europe-wide manhunt.
Ashya's brother Danny, who was allowed to visit him in hospital in Spain, told ITV News the boy was "fine" and that his condition had not changed since he entered hospital in Malaga where he is being treated.
The chief constable of Hampshire police, which sought the parents' arrest, defended that decision in a letter published on Tuesday, citing the medical evidence and the level of concern for the child's safety, but also called for the parents to be allowed to spend time with their son.
"Our intent was to secure his safety not to deny him family support at this particularly challenging time in his life," chief constable Andy Marsh said in the letter.