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British Businessman Michael Turner Faces Hungarian Court On Fraud Charges

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Michael Turne was extradited to Hungary under a European Arrest Warrant
Michael Turne was extradited to Hungary under a European Arrest Warrant

A British businessman who spent four months without charge in a notorious Hungarian jail will appear in court in Budapest on Wednesday.

Michael Turner, who was extradited under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2009 and spent weeks living in appalling conditions, faces fraud charges following the collapse of his failed timeshare company.

His appearance will come just hours after retired British businessman Christopher Tappin is brought before a court in Texas following his two-year battle against being sent to America to stand trial.

The UK's extradition procedures have come under the spotlight in recent months amid growing disquiet over the US-UK treaty and the use of the EAW.

Mr Turner is charged alongside his former business partner Jason McGoldrick, 39, from Plymouth, Devon.

Their Budapest-based company collapsed in 2005 and Hungarian prosecutors used EAWs to detain them, alleging the company's creditors were the victims of fraud, the Press Association reported.

Mr Turner, 30, has told how he was led through a busy airport in handcuffs on a dog-style lead when he was first extradited on 2 November 2009.

The businessman, from from Corfe Castle, Dorset, was imprisoned for four months at the Budapest Penitentiary Institute, where he was kept in his cell for 23 hours a day.

Unable to speak the language, and with no warm clothes, he was only allowed on to a caged roof terrace in temperatures of -20C for an hour a day and was only allowed one shower a week, he said.

He was released, with no explanation, on 26 February 2010 - having only been interviewed once by police - and returned to Britain.

He later hit out at the British extradition system and said judges should be given more power to test the evidence in cases before individuals are extradited under the EAW.

Mr Turner and Mr McGoldrick are expected to appear in court for a day-long procedural hearing, ahead of a trial which is due to start in April.

Both men deny wrongdoing.

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International (FTI), said: "Michael was the victim of a shocking misuse of Europe's fast-track extradition laws and suffered appalling treatment during the four months he spent needlessly in a Hungarian jail.

"The time for talking is over: the UK Government must now reform our flawed extradition laws."

The campaign group has called for reforms of the UK's extradition arrangements, saying had these changes been implemented, Mr Turner's "ordeal could have been avoided".

The proposed measures include giving British judges the power to halt extradition until a case is trial-ready, as well as the power to refuse extradition where the requesting country is not the appropriate place for a trial to take place.

FTI has also called for the courts to be allowed to seek further information from the requesting state before extradition.

Means-testing for legal aid in all extradition cases should also be abolished and the fixed one-week deadline to appeal against extradition under a European Arrest Warrant extended, the campaigners say.

And they have called for British nationals or residents to be allowed to serve any sentence in the UK.

A number of other figures in high-profile cases are also fighting extradition to the US, including 23-year-old student Richard O'Dwyer who is accused of breaking American copyright laws.

Janis Sharp, the mother of computer hacker Gary McKinnon, said he was "unable to control the terror that consumes his every waking moment" as he fights extradition over charges he hacked into US military computers.