Italy abandons 'wrong man' extradition case

By John Aston,Stephen Howard,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:12

The Italian authorities today abandoned a bid to extradite a father of three for murder after admitting they had "got the wrong man".

Edmond Arapi was convicted by an Italian court in his absence in 2006 and sentenced to 16 years in jail for the murder of Castillo Marcello, who was stabbed to death in Genoa in October 2004.

Today Mr Arapi went to the High Court in London to fight against extradition.

The 29-year-old Albanian chef, who lives in Leek, Staffordshire, knew nothing about the trial and said he had an alibi.

Lawyers for the Italian government said they were withdrawing the extradition request after conceding that Mr Arapi was the victim of stolen identity.

John Hardy QC, appearing for Mr Arapi, said: "With respect, this case is outrageous - there is no other way to describe it."

Mr Arapi, jubilant after the judge discharged the case and still wearing an electronic tag, said: "I have been ringing my family to tell them the news.

"I am so happy now but this has been a nightmare for me that words cannot describe.

"Tonight I shall be celebrating and then I shall get back to being a chef or something, but I want to move on in my life."

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: "We are thrilled that Edmond Arapi can now wake up from the nightmare of the last year.

"His case is clear evidence that countries requesting extradition sometimes get it wrong. Italian and British authorities have taken a commonsense approach to this case.

"We hope European countries will now work together to reform the EU's fast-track extradition system to prevent similar cases of injustice in future."

Fair Trials International supported Mr Arapi's case, saying he had a "compelling" alibi that he did not leave the UK between 2000/06.

He was working at Cafe Davide in Trentham and attending classes toward his chef's qualification on the day of the murder.

If extradited, Edmond faced the "nightmare" of being forced to part from his wife, a newborn baby and his two young daughters, aged three and seven, to spend years in a foreign jail.

Mr Arapi was arrested at Gatwick Airport on a European Arrest Warrant in June last year as he returned from a month-long holiday in Albania with his wife Georgina, whom he married in 2006.

His extradition was ordered in March by a district judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court.