Battle to halt Cyprus extradition

A YOUNG man from Essex sentenced to three years in a Cyprus prison is to fight against extradition proceedings, it emerged last night. Cousins Luke Atkinson and Michael Binnington, from Witham, were sentenced in their absence yesterday following the death of 17-year-old moped rider Christos Papiris.

James Hore

A YOUNG man from Essex sentenced to three years in a Cyprus prison is to fight against extradition proceedings, it emerged last night.

Cousins Luke Atkinson and Michael Binnington, from Witham, were sentenced in their absence yesterday following the death of 17-year-old moped rider Christos Papiris.

The pair were passengers in a car being driven by their uncle, Julian Harrington, when it allegedly rammed the teenager's moped in August 2006.

Harrington pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while Atkinson and Binnington were cleared and came home.

But in January there was a prosecution appeal and the two 23-year-olds were told their acquittals had been overturned.

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The Supreme Court in Cyprus yesterday handed them a three-year term for culpable manslaughter and one year for GBH, with the sentences to concurrently.

It now means that an extradition bid could be launched because it is unlikely the men will voluntarily go out to Cyprus.

Atkinson's mother, Averil, told the EADT: “We are not happy, I have heard people say 'it is only three years' but they are not guilty. They were passengers sitting in the back of the car.

“But we are going to fight it until the end. It is a joke, but at least we know now what they are facing and can move forward because before we were just waiting and wondering what it would be.”

She said there was no way that her son would voluntarily go out to Cyprus to serve the sentence and said the family was taking legal advice about how best to fight the case.

The men have the backing of Richard Howitt MEP.

He said: “The verdict that should have been given should not be against Luke and Michael, but against a judicial process in which they thought they'd been acquitted and then were subject to a retrial in their absence.

“A fair trial is a fundamental right under the European Convention, and they have every right to fight their extradition in Britain in what appears to be a gross miscarriage of justice.

“The uncle has received what seems a manifestly unfair sentence, and now so too have the nephews.

“As a member of the European Union, Cyprus is required to administer a minimum standard of justice and they have not done so.”

The court originally heard Harrington, a fence maker from Witham, rammed Mr Papiris' moped in the resort of Protaras as part of a “revenge attack” after another Briton was hurt in a fight outside a local nightclub.

But Mr Papiris had not been involved in the altercation.