Five men lost a High Court battle yesterday to block their extradition to Greece where they are accused of a savage attack on a British footballer outside a Crete nightclub.
Lawyers for the five said they faced detention for many months in terrible conditions in a Greek jail, violating their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
But two judges ruled the evidence of the likelihood of their suffering such treatment "fell a long way short" of establishing a bar to extradition. The men, all in their early 20s, are suspected of stabbing Robert Hughes with a broken bottle, before stamping on his head in an incident in the resort of Malia in June 2008.
Mr Hughes, now 29, has played football for Oxford United, Sutton United, Croydon Athletic, Bromley and now Welling United. He was left in a coma for two months and needed three brain operations to save his life. He has now recovered to the extent that he is again playing football.
The five suspects – Curtis Taylor, Daniel Bell, and Sean Branton, all from Horley, Surrey; George Hollands, from Reigate, Surrey; and Benjamin Herdman, from Worth, West Sussex – deny involvement in the attack. The men were invited to go back to Greece in June last year, but they refused and were then detained under European arrest warrants in December.
They asked the president of the Queen's Bench Division, Sir Anthony May, and Mr Justice Blair, sitting at the High Court in London, to block a City of Westminster magistrates' court decision in February approving extradition. But the High Court judges upheld a finding by District Judge Caroline Tubbs that there was no reason why the five should not travel to Greece to stand trial.
The judges also rejected claims that the five were unfairly refused an adjournment to fully prepare their case, call witnesses and present fresh evidence on prison conditions in Greece.