Lorry-driver jailed for smuggling refugees through Greece is cleared

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British lorry-driver jailed for smuggling refugees through Greece had his conviction overturned yesterday.

David Wilson was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined £47,000 by a Greek court last March after 19 illegal immigrants were found in his vehicle. Mr Wilson, 44, was freed on bail in May and returned home to Bradford, West Yorkshire, on condition he attended his appeal in Greece where he was officially cleared by a judge in the port town of Patras yesterday.

"The appeal's gone through, we've won, David's an innocent man. We are over the moon," Richard Frier, a spokesman for the family said yesterday. "This is the news we've been waiting for for 10 months. It's just fantastic."

Mr Wilson, of Wyke, Bradford, West Yorkshire, told reporters at the court: "Thank you very much for everyone who believed in me." Mr Frier said the judge had ruled that Mr Wilson would have his £1,500 bail money and truck returned to him.

He added that Mr Wilson and his wife Tracey were expected to be spending time on their own in Greece and return to the UK at the weekend. Mr Frier said the family had been inundated with requests for appearances on television, but were still coming to terms with yesterday's events.

Mr Wilson was returning to Britain on 18 March last year when he was stopped by Greek customs officials in Patras who discovered the Iraqi Kurds stowed away in his lorry.

Under Greek law, anyone "caught in the act" is fast- tracked through the legal system. Mr Wilson was given a local lawyer and appeared in court for his trial the next day.

Mr Wilson had always protested his innocence, saying the refugees had entered his lorry without his knowledge. Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, has criticised the fast-track system of law, saying it was "against international law". Truckers travelling abroad were being targeted by people-smugglers when they stopped for mandatory rest breaks, he said.

In another development yesterday, police said they arrested 133 illegal immigrants working on farms in northeastern Greece. None of the immigrants had legal residence or work permits.