Court bid for Liverpool fan jailed in Bulgaria

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Lawyers for a Liverpool supporter jailed for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian barman three years ago will launch a new bid today to secure his release.

Michael Shields, now 21, was returning home after Liverpool's defeat of AC Milan in the European Cup final in Istanbul in May 2005.

He and his friends stopped over in the Bulgarian resort of Varna. After an incident in the town centre in which the barman was attacked, allegedly by Liverpool fans, Shields was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, a sentence which was later reduced to 10 years. Subsequently he was transferred to a prison in Britain.

Shields has claimed throughout that he was in bed in his hotel when the barman was attacked, suffering severe head injuries. Since then, another Liverpool man admitted he was responsible for the attack, but later withdrew that "confession".

Shields is now serving his sentence at Haverigg prison in the Lake District.

His supporters, who have mounted a huge campaign on his behalf, are convinced he was wrongly convicted.

A few months ago Justice Secretary Jack Straw told Shields's supporters he had no jurisdiction to consider either a pardon or an early release for him, saying that that was the responsibility of the Bulgarian authorities.

Today, lawyers will lodge with the courts an application for a judicial review, challenging Mr Straw's ruling regarding "the power to grant a pardon to repatriated prisoners wrongly convicted in a foreign jurisdiction".

His MP, Louise Ellman (Labour, Liverpool Riverside), said: "This application for a judicial review is a vital step in securing justice for Michael Shields. It is important that there is legal clarity about who decides his future."

Mrs Ellman added: "I shall continue to fight for this young man until justice has been done."

If the application is successful, it does not mean necessarily that Mr Straw will order his release but it would mean that the power to do so would be his.