A judge has confirmed the extradition of a man wanted in Greece over an alleged €780,000 robbery and double murder in 2015.
The decision was handed down on Monday against Ledjon Brakaj, a 36-year old Albanian who was arrested in Malta in August after being targeted by a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Greek authorities.
The man was allegedly involved in a robbery which ended up in the murder of an elderly woman and her nephew. They were violently beaten and then set on fire while still alive, Greek authorities claim.
Brakaj is wanted to face prosecution for wilful homicide, theft aggravated by violence and arson involving danger of loss of life.
During the extradition proceedings before the magistrates' court, Brakaj’s lawyers had raised doubts on the arrested man's identity, subsequently also disputing the fingerprint experts' conclusions.
The court, however, had approved the extradition after noting that the warrants concerned extraditable offences, punishable with life imprisonment under Greek law and also punishable under Maltese law.
Brakaj was held in custody pending his extradition or appeal.
His lawyers filed an appeal, arguing that the first court’s decision was unsafe and unsatisfactory since it failed to consider serious concerns they had flagged over the situation in Greek prisons.
The conditions inside Greek prisons were such that his fundamental rights would be breached, they said. They said the prisons in Greece had seen police abuse, serious sanitary shortcomings and overcrowded cells.
For this reason, they sought to obtain a guarantee from the Greek authorities to the effect that their client would not be subjected to such treatment if his extradition were to go through.
The lawyers also appealed on the grounds of the man’s identity, saying that the first court was mistaken when it did not enter into the issue as to whether procedural requisites for the lifting and analysis of fingerprints were rigorously followed.
When delivering judgment Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera said proceedings in terms of a European Arrest Warrant were the “cornerstone of judicial cooperation.” The mechanism involved a judicial rather than political process, pinned upon reciprocal trust between member states and the mutual recognition of judicial decisions.
EU Member States had a duty to execute such warrants and could face proceedings for breach of duty if they failed to do so.
Making reference to a similar scenario in proceedings against John Spiteri, the court said that as a court of criminal jurisdiction, it was not competent to decide upon fundamental human rights issues.
Brakaj could have requested a constitutional reference, but did not.
Although this court took such matters very seriously, its hands were tied, said Madam Justice Scerri Herrera.
The issue about his identity was also a matter to be debated before another court.
In light of such considerations the court turned down Brakaj’s appeal and remanded him in custody pending extradition but not before the lapse of the statutory time limit within which he could file breach of rights proceedings.
Inspector Kurt Ryan Farrugia prosecuted.