Backpacker jailed in India to be returned to UK

But former City worker must still serve remainder of 10-year sentence for drugs possession charges
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The Independent Online

A 33-year old backpacker from Kent serving a 10-year sentence in one of India's most notorious prisons for a crime he says he didn't commit, has been given approval by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs to serve the remainder of his sentence in the UK, The IoS can exclusively reveal.

Patrick Malluzzo has spent six years in Rajasthan's Kota prison, sharing a cell with more than 50 other inmates and has suffered serious illness. His mother, Teresa Malluzzo, who hasn't seen her son for seven years, is hoping the British government will get him home as soon as possible.

"We are really pleased that the Indian government has decided to approve Patrick's transfer to the UK," she said. "It's not the happiest outcome because he will still have to spend time in prison, but what is important is to get Patrick home."

Malluzzo was arrested at Mumbai airport in 2004 and charged with possession of cannabis. In a trial that was conducted entirely in Hindi and which presented no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking him to the drugs, he was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Fair Trials International, which has been working on the case since 2007, describes it as "a travesty – a grossly unfair trial in a language he could not understand".

The Malluzzos' nightmare began in October 2003 when Patrick, a former City worker from Dartford, set off on one last backpacking trip before settling down. In his bag he had an engagement ring for his girlfriend whom he planned to meet in Thailand.

On his travels he met another backpacker, James (not his real name), and they talked about going to Goa together. Although it wasn't a concrete plan, James booked train tickets for them both. Malluzzo then decided to stay in Rajasthan a few days longer and agreed to meet up with James in Goa. As he wanted to travel light, he asked James to take a small bag of his clothing and various other items with him on the train. James agreed and the two went their separate ways.

Shortly after, Malluzzo got a call from James saying he had accidentally left the bag on the train. Subsequently, his bag, along with another containing 19kg of cannabis resin, was found under the seat booked in his name and handed in to the police. He was arrested two months later as he attempted to leave India for Thailand. Three months on, his mother got a call from the Foreign Office to say he had been arrested.

Malluzzo was first in the custody of Mumbai police, but was then transferred to the Kota Railway police and taken back to Rajasthan. During this time he reports being severely tortured: beaten, stripped and shackled to a chair while cigarettes were used to burn him, and pliers were used on his genitals. He was also forced to sign confessions written in Hindi.

During the first year of his incarceration his family had no way of contacting their son except by letter. "He was writing to us saying get me out of here. It was a cry for help but we had no idea how to," Mrs Malluzzo said.

Then he met a priest in prison called Pastor Samuel. "He had nothing and Patrick shared his Bible and a couple of tomatoes with him," his mother said. "Samuel made him the promise that he would see him through and he's never let him down. Every 10 days or so, he makes a 16-hour round trip to visit Patrick and bring him supplies. He's been Patrick's life support for the past six years."

After Malluzzo's conviction, his lawyers lodged an appeal. It took four years to get to Rajasthan High Court. Summing up, the judge said it was not relevant the trial had been held in a language he didn't understand and the fact that he had never been in possession of the drugs was "devoid of merit". To the Malluzzos' horror, in February this year the conviction was upheld. "It absolutely floored us," Mrs Malluzzo said. With Patrick's health a serious issue – he suffers from malaria, dysentery, rat bites, depression, prostatitis and urinary dysfunction – the decision was made to give up the fight for justice and focus on getting him home.

Although Mrs Malluzzo has never visited her son, his father, Salvatore, has been six times. "Patrick didn't want me to go there and, as a mother, I think if I had gone I don't think I could ever have walked away," she says. Also, finances won't allow her to go. Last year they were forced to put their house on the market.

With approval finally granted for her son's transfer to the UK, Mrs Malluzzo is now daring to start thinking of his homecoming. "He is a different man to the one who left all those years ago," she says.

According to Jago Russell of Fair Trials International: "It is a travesty that this young man will come home with a guilty conviction. But he and his family have been through a horrendous ordeal and, after visiting him in Kota jail, it is easy to understand why he feels he can take no more."