A Maltese man wanted by police in Italy over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking has seen a refusal of his bid for bail pending a case claiming breach of his human rights.

Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale threw out Paul Attard’s request to be released on bail pending a claim that his rights have been violated because an extradition order against him could not be executed within the time prescribed by law.

The judge noted that the only reason Attard could not be extradited to Italy was due to a case he had filed before the Constitutional Court claiming breach of his human rights and not because of any other reason over which the Maltese state had any control.

Attard, a 43-year-old shipper, was arrested in Malta in May 2019 on the strength of a European arrest warrant issued by the Giudice per gli Indagini Preliminari. He is wanted in Italy to face trial over the trafficking of 10 tonnes of hashish found on a fishing boat. 

The vessel had been intercepted by the Italian authorities in international waters in 2018 after setting off from Malta to Algeria, on a trip allegedly organised by Maltese drug traffickers.

The hashish was allegedly found in the vessel’s cold room. After he was taken into custody in Malta, a magistrate turned down Italy’s extradition request, upholding his argument that the documentation was defective.

However, a judge overturned that decision in December and ordered that Attard be extradited to face justice in Italy under the European arrest warrant, specifying that he be held in custody until then.

Under law, extradition should take place within seven days from the extradition order. However, six days after the judge’s decision, Attard filed a constitutional case requesting the court to declare that his rights were being breached because he was not being extradited within the terms prescribed at law.

Mr Justice Depasquale rubbished the argument, ruling that the time-limit for surrendering Attard to the Italian state could not be regarded as expired, although the extradition process had been concluded.

Malta could not proceed with the extradition “due to [Attard’s] resistance to extradition” through constitutional proceedings, the judge ruled as he refused his request for an interim measure to be released from custody pending the case.

The case regarding his human rights breach continues next month. 

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