Stoke & Staffordshire

Italy drops Staffordshire man's murder extradition bid

Edmond Arapi and his wife Georgina
Image caption Mr Arapi was working in Stoke-on-Trent at the time of the murder

Italian authorities have dropped a bid to extradite a man for murder after admitting they had "got the wrong man".

Edmond Arapi, 30, from Staffordshire, was convicted in his absence of killing a man in Genoa in 2004, despite not being in Italy at the time.

Lawyers for the Italian government said they were withdrawing the request after conceding that Mr Arapi, from Leek, was the victim of stolen identity.

Fingerprint analysis confirmed Mr Arapi did not murder Castillo Marcello.

The father-of-three was found guilty by an Italian court in 2006 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for the murder of Mr Marcello, who was stabbed to death.

'Outrageous' case

He went to the High Court in London with his legal team earlier to fight against extradition bid.

The Albanian chef said he knew nothing about the trial and said he had an alibi.

Gemma Lindfield, who represented the prosecutors' office of the Republic of Italy, told the High Court judges they had convicted the wrong man.

She said the Italian authorities had been notified last week that the Italian judiciary may have made a mistake about the murderer's identity.

Fingerprint analysis cleared Mr Arapi on Monday of the fatal stabbing, she said.

"In these circumstances this court must order (Mr Arapi's) discharge and quash the order for his extradition," she added.

John Hardy QC, appearing for Mr Arapi at the High Court, said: "With respect, this case is outrageous - there is no other way to describe it."

'Nightmare situation'

He told the court Mr Arapi was "a man of exemplary character", who came from Albania "seeking betterment in life", but who had instead been falsely accused for a crime he could not possibly have committed.

He said his client was then deprived of five weeks of liberty and forced to wear an electronic security tag afterwards.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Arapi, who was still wearing the electronic tag, said: "I am so happy now but this has been a nightmare for me that words cannot describe.

"Tonight I shall be celebrating and then I shall get back to being a chef or something, but I want to move on in my life."

Mr Arapi was arrested at Gatwick Airport in June last year on a European arrest warrant as he returned from a holiday with his wife Georgina.

'Compelling' alibi

His extradition was ordered in March by a district judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Jago Russell, chief executive of human rights charity Fair Trials International, which supported Mr Arapi's case, said: "Italian and British authorities have taken a common sense approach to this case.

"His case is clear evidence that countries requesting extradition sometimes get it wrong.

"We hope European countries will now work together to reform the EU's fast-track extradition system to prevent similar cases of injustice in future."

The organisation said Mr Arapi had a "compelling" alibi that he did not leave the UK between 2000 and 2006.

He was working at Cafe Davide in Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and attending classes toward his chef's qualification on the day of the murder.

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