Extradition decision delayed

Two cousins from Essex facing three years in a Cypriot jail will have to wait even longer to find out if they will be extradited to serve their sentences, a court has ruled.

James Hore

TWO cousins from Essex facing three years in a Cypriot jail for manslaughter have lost a key legal argument in their battle against extradition.

Luke Atkinson, 24, and Michael Binnington, 23, both of Witham, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court today to discover whether their appeal against a European Arrest warrant had been successful.

The men were passengers in a car driven by Atkinson's uncle, Julian Harrington, in Protaras, Cyprus, in August 2006 when it hit a moped being driven by Christof Papiris, 17, who was who knocked off died.

No final decision on the extradition was made but the judge ruled that an earlier appeal in Cyprus did constitute a trial and that the boys chose to be absent.

Their lawyers now have the opportunity to argue that the trial was not fair under the human rights act.

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Harrington, 40, also from Witham, is serving a 15-year jail sentence after admitting manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.

He changed his plea after being advised that if he pleaded guilty the two young men would be freed.

Atkinson and Binnington were acquitted, but in January a prosecution appeal was held in their absence and the two men were told

their acquittals had been overturned.

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

The men did not give themselves up, so a European Arrest Warrant was issued.

Essex Euro MP Richard Howitt, has called the case a “miscarriage of justice”

He said: “The real issue for me is that this wasn't a fair trial. Indeed, it is hard to accept that the boys could have a fair trial when they were not even present.

“It is right that the boys use every legal avenue available to challenge what we believe is an unjust conviction.

“Today's hearing in a huge disappointment for Michael, Luke and their families and the fact that the ordeal continues, casts a further shadow over their lives.”

The Cypriot court originally heard Harrington, a fence-maker, allegedly “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.

The Government has said it will not interfere in the procedure to extradite Harrington and Binnington.

The case will come before the court again on September 19.