Court blocks football fan extradition

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The Independent Online

England football fan Garry Mann today received a boost in his bid to avoid extradition to Portugal after a High Court injunction was imposed.

The former Kent firefighter, 52, was convicted over a riot during the Euro 2004 tournament.

Earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a legal challenge to his extradition to serve a two-year jail term.

But Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said a temporary injunction blocking the move was imposed by the High Court this afternoon.

"We are delighted to say that the High Court has granted an injunction to stop Garry Mann being extradited until May 7," Mr Russell said.

"They've set a time for a hearing of Garry's case at the High Court at 10.30am on May 7."

On Tuesday, the father-of-six said he had been the victim of a "witch-hunt".

His legal team said earlier that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) had informed them that his extradition was planned for May 5.

Mr Russell added: "Today's decision means we can continue the battle to stop Garry Mann becoming another victim of Europe's fast-track extradition system.

"We hope the High Court will take this opportunity to deliver justice and stop Garry being torn from his family and flown to Portugal to serve a two year sentence."

Lawyers representing Mann, from Faversham, Kent, said their application would be based on evidence from the Foreign Office not previously heard in court.

The hearing on May 7 will consider whether the injunction should be extended.

Mann, a Birmingham City supporter, says he was drinking with friends in a bar in Albufeira when a riot involving football fans began in a nearby street.

He was arrested, tried and convicted within 48 hours.

He said he was only granted five minutes with a lawyer before trial, could not understand the proceedings and did not know what charge he faced until after he was convicted.

A British police officer at the trial described the proceedings as a "farce".

Three days after being sentenced, he agreed to be deported on the understanding that his jail term would be waived if he left voluntarily.

Back in the UK, a police chief applied for a worldwide football banning order preventing Mann travelling abroad for matches.

Justice Stephen Day refused because, he said, the trial in Portugal had been "so unfair as to be incompatible with the respondent's right to a fair trial". In October 2008, British police arrested Mann, acting on a European arrest warrant issued by their Portuguese counterparts.

British courts reluctantly rejected appeals against extradition, with High Court judge Lord Justice Moses declaring at a hearing in January that he could not "leave this application without remarking upon the inability of this court to rectify what appears to be a serious injustice to Mr Mann".

At another hearing in March, he called for "mediation or grown-up people getting their heads together" and warned: "I cannot believe anybody wants this man to go and do two years in Albufeira Jail.

"It is just an embarrassment for everybody, this whole case, and it ought to disappear."

Mr Mann said in a statement: "The last two years have been a roller coaster of emotions.

"I am hopeful that this hearing can bring to light evidence in my favour which the FCO has had for six years, and might finally sway the courts to end my ordeal and let me live in peace."