The leader of a French sect in detention at Mount Carmel hospital has been on a hunger strike since Wednesday morning after he was denied bail, according to his lawyer.

Speaking in front of the Great Siege monument, facing the law courts in Valletta yesterday, lawyer Emmy Bezzina said he had filed a constitutional application claiming breach of human rights over the bail denial and the order to extradite Alain Schmitt, 49, and his girlfriend Laurence Liegeois, 47.

He claimed that Mr Schmitt's medical condition was deteriorating and that his client was refusing to eat.

He said three MPs were prepared to take the matter to Parliament but they preferred not to be named for the time being.

The couple, who form part of a French sect, MINH, are in custody after France issued an arrest warrant for them as they are wanted on convictions of extortion and kidnapping, among other charges. The couple fled France and made it to Malta but were arrested here on January 7.

Magistrate Joseph Apap Bologna then ordered the couple's extradition and denied their request for bail. They appealed and Chief Justice Vincent De Gaetano upheld the decision on Friday.

Dr Bezzina's main argument in both cases was that his client is seriously ill with severe diabetes and that he cannot be properly treated in custody. Both Magistrate Apap Bologna and the Chief Justice dismissed the argument on the basis of medical evidence that Mr Schmitt's ailment was not as serious as made out to be and that he was receiving good treatment at Mount Carmel.

Dr Bezzina insisted yesterday that his client should be seen by a diabetes specialist and accused the authorities of failing to take him to Mater Dei Hospital even though his condition was worsening by the day.

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