, Another one bites the dust 5: leadingcounsel.co.uk
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Another one bites the dust 5

Another person who has been the subject of controversy regarding the operation of the European arrest warrant is Andrew Symeou, who was extradited in July 2009. He is presently held in Athens in the Korydallos maximum-security Prison, which Amnesty International has called "one of the worst in Europe". Mr Symeou is charged with manslaughter arising from the death of holidaymaker Jonathan Hiles from Cardiff, who was punched in a Greek nightclub, and hit his head when he fell from the dance podium, subsequently dying from his head injuries. Mr Symeou, who had been on holiday in Greece and who had left at the conclusion of his holiday in the normal way, was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant on the 26th June 2008, almost a year after the death. Concern has been expressed regarding the circumstances of his arrest. See for example Liberty's statment, where the civil liberties group Liberty , inter alia stated that: ""This alarming case highlights the dangers of summary extradition. No one should be sent anywhere, be it Europe, the US or elsewhere, without a case first being made in a local court - British justice should not be circumvented in this way. Extradition Watch, our new campaign, seeks to pressure Government to stop extradition without safeguards. .........Liberty believes a person should not be extradited to stand trial in a foreign country without evidence being presented to a British court to prove there is a prima facie case against them. ............. The European Arrest Warrant is based upon the presumption that EU countries all have fair and equal systems of justice which should remove the need for any other country to scrutinise the fairness of extradition to such a country. This presumption is seriously open to question."

As well as the specific Justice For Symeou Campaign , Fair Trials International has also expressed concern, see Fair Trials International's statement that "Andrew Symeouís case is indicative of problems with Europeís fast-track extradition system, and is one we have highlighted in our Justice in Europe: The Arrest Warrant campaign. ...........Fair Trials International has grave concerns over the conduct of the police investigation, which was built on mistaken identity, conflicting evidence, and violent intimidation of witnesses."

This case was the subject of a protest outside the Greek Embassy in January this year, and was also the subject of debate in the House of Commons on 14 January. Mr Symeou's constituency MP, Joan Ryan, stated amongst other things as follows: " I have two main concerns about Andrew's detention .... first, the refusal of the Greek authorities to grant Andrew bail.. secondly, the number of inconsistencies and anomalies in the case file, which Andrew's legal team have obtained. When taken together, those suggest that, at best, there has been a serious abuse of process in the gathering of evidence and the production of written statements, and at worst that evidence has been manipulated and sometimes fabricated to incriminate Andrew falsely. More to the point, even though those concerns have been repeatedly brought to the attention of the Greek authorities, they have been dismissed out of hand, which I believe raises real doubts about whether Andrew can expect to receive a fair trial. If the Greek authorities are unwilling or unable credibly to investigate those issues, it is incumbent on the British Government to raise them directly with the Greek Government."

It is interesting to analyse the decision which was taken to extradite him under the arrest warrant and compare it to what has then actually occurred so far. The decision was the Administrative Court decision made on 1 May 2009 by Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Ouseley, given by the latter. However the bail situation gives an interesting insight into the way the procedures are being operated. Mr Symeou has been in custody for about six months and could be there for nearly another year awaiting trial. The reason given as justifying refusing him bail is that he is not a Greek national, does not have a permanent address in Greece and thus he is considered a flight risk. A moment's thought shows this effectively means that virtually any foreigner being tried in Greece would be regarded on that test has having to be held in custody pending trial. As his MP put it in the House of Commons, "Andrew, a student at Bournemouth university, with a bright future, no history whatever of law-breaking and a string of impeccable testimonials and character references from his teachers, is now forced to share a cell with convicted murderers, rapists and drug smugglers. He has twice been denied bail, even though he has, at every stage of the investigation, fully co-operated with the police, and even though his uncle, who has a property in Athens, has offered his home as a fixed address where Andrew could reside. In the first instance, Andrew was denied bail on the ground that he is a foreign national...therefore perceived to be a flight risk. The European Convention on Human Rights, to which Greece is a signatory, makes clear that discrimination on the basis of national origin is unlawful. An appeal was lodged against the refusal of bail. ........ the appeal was denied before my constituent or his legal team were actually informed that an appeal was taking place - before Andrew's lawyer could make any oral arguments to the judge, ............When Andrew was finally informed that his application for bail had been refused, he was informed only in Greek. He was given a document written in Greek and told by one of the prison guards to sign it, even though he could not read it. When he initially refused, he was told he had no choice."

Against that unpromising start we will commence to analyse the High Court decision next week.

Michael J. Booth QC