England fan wins extradition reprieve

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An England football fan facing extradition to Portugal to serve a jail term was granted a temporary reprieve by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today.

Garry Mann, 51, from Faversham in Kent, was told there was no immediate prospect of him being extradited to Portugal, where he was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in football-related violence in the Algarve resort of Albufeira during Euro 2004. Portugal is seeking extradition because Mr Mann did not serve his sentence in the UK after deportation.

His case has drawn attention to the failings of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which was created in 2002 as part of the EU’s response to the threat of terrorism. The Portuguese authorities want to extradite Mr Mann using the fast-track legislation, which allows for the rapid transfer of people between EU countries to serve sentences or stand trial.

The warrants prevent governments from intervening on behalf of their citizens, even if they fear they have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

“The European Arrest Warrant was rushed in after 9/11 to deal with terrorism and other serious crimes, but it is operating unfairly,” said Catherine Heard, policy officer at Fair Trials International. “People are being extradited after grossly unfair trials, like Garry Mann, often for minor offences. People are being held on remand for months after extradition. Until much-needed reforms are introduced, these flaws will result in more cases of injustice.”

Writing in The Independent, David Blunkett – who as Home Secretary oversaw the introduction of the legislation – admits he was “unfair” to Mr Mann and that he did not foresee the “likely overuse” of the powers.

The ECHR said it was deferring its decision on Mr Mann’s case pending a final judicial hearing at Britain’s High Court, expected at the end of March. In a letter to his solicitors, the court’s section registrar wrote: “There is no current risk that your client will be extradited from the United Kingdom.”

Mr Mann was tried and convicted less than 48 hours after being arrested in June 2004, and promptly deported. But he insists he was drinking in a bar with friends at the time of the riot, and claims he was beaten and deprived of sleep by police. His lawyers say his original trial was unfair, with no proper interpretation, and Mr Mann did not understand most of the proceedings.

A British police officer who witnessed the trial described it as “a farce”. He told the Court of Appeal that the interpreter had been “a hairdresser from down the road to where the court was situated [and] a friend of the judge’s wife”.