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Man held for 'people smuggling' fights extradition over Greek prison conditions

Published 25/04/2016

Jamal Owda pictured during his arrest in Liverpool
Jamal Owda pictured during his arrest in Liverpool

The alleged head of a people smuggling gang accused of trafficking 100 Syrian refugees a day into Europe will argue he cannot be extradited because being held in a Greek prison would breach his human rights, a court heard.

Palestinian Jamal Owda, 26, was one of 23 people held in raids across Europe in December over an operation authorities claim could have made up to 10 million euro (£7 million) since 2013 by preying on desperate civilians fleeing the civil war.

He was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant by National Crime Agency officers at an asylum shelter in Liverpool and Westminster Magistrates' Court in London heard on Monday he is applying for asylum in the UK.

Greece is seeking his extradition to stand trial over the alleged smuggling operation it says was based in the country. But his lawyer said today that prison conditions in the country may breach Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to life.

Amelia Nice told the hearing that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) had investigated Greek prisons. She said: "(The committee's) report says things are not getting better, they are getting significantly worse, so it becomes an Article 2 case."

She added that Owda's legal team was trying to arrange for an expert to independently inspect a Greek prison before a full hearing in the case.

She also said: "Subsequent to extradition one of the issues is that he is likely to be sent back to Palestine. It might be open to argument that there is a risk extradition will result in deportation that may … result in human rights breaches."

The court also heard Owda's suffers from unspecified mental health problems.

The December raids saw 13 other alleged members of the gang arrested in Greece, seven in Austria and two in Sweden, the NCA said at the time.

Owda was remanded in custody by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe ahead of a hearing on May 10.

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