Charity worker faces jail term in Romania

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The Independent Online
AT FIRST sight, the British charity worker Graham Giles is no Angel of Mostar. Yet this week the 41-year-old from Southampton is facing the prospect of imprisonment abroad simply because he too, like the popular heroine Sally Becker, was helping a young child.

Mr Giles, a former Baptist minister, has been charged with manslaughter in Romania after a road accident last December in which a female passenger in another car was killed.

The Romanian press has already held Mr Giles to blame for the incident, in spite of the fact that the other driver involved had no licence and was found to have been drunk. Mr Giles' solicitors have been told that he has been formally charged and must not leave the country before the trial date next month.

"It is an amazing story," said Stephen Jakobi, of the British charity Fair Trials Abroad. "Contrary to witness statements and technical evidence, he [Mr Giles] is being prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, while the other man is merely being charged for driving without a licence and being over the limit."

Mr Giles, who runs the European charity Partnership for Justice from offices in the Romanian city of Arad, was taking a child to hospital to have artificial legs fitted at the time of the collision. He claims he was driving slowly because of his frail passenger and that a video filmed by chance of the crash shows the other driver, a Romanian, was clearly to blame.

"This man, Mirea Ion, was driving dangerously, at speed on the wrong side of the road, and was oblivious to my warnings," said Mr Giles, who broke his nose and was badly bruised in the crash. His passenger, the child, escaped serious injury.

Lawyers working in Arad on Mr Giles' behalf have obtained expert testimony that the action that he took - turning his car rapidly across the road - was probably life-saving.

Mr Giles' sister, Chrissy, who lives in south London, has written to MPs and MEPs in an attempt to build up support for Graham's case. She suspects that her brother's campaigning reputation in Romania may be behind what she regards as trumped-up criminal charges.

"If what you do for a living is go about turning over stones to see what creepy-crawlies are there, you are bound to make enemies," she said.