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Minister refuses to help over extradition; 'It's important to respect the authorities'.

Byline: David James

HOME Secretary Jacqui Smith has refused to intervene over the controversial extradition of the man accused of tragic roller hockey star Jonny Hiles' manslaughter, the Echo can reveal today.

Jonny's family spoke of their relief after the top Labour politician's staff made clear the Home Office's position in a letter toone of the Cardiff teenager's friends.

Family and friends of Andrew Symeou, the North London teenager accused of punching 18-year-old Jonny from a podium in a Greek holiday resort nightclub last summer, had mounted a letter-writing campaign calling on the Home Secretary to object to the extradition.

But, in a letter dated August 16, a spokesman for the Home Secretary wrote to a friend of Jonny's in reply to a letter in which he had set out the case for the extradition.

He wrote: "There is no role for government ministers in the European Arrest Warrant process.

The EAW governs extradition to EU member states that have incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into their domestic law."

He went on to say the only reason why a district judge could refuse a request for extradition was if they determined, in an exceptional case, that there was a risk of treatment in the other country that was incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

And he concluded: "It is important to respect the Greek authorities' right to prosecute in Greece as that is where the incident occurred, just as we would wish to prosecute here if such an incident occurred in the UK.

"The principle of "mutual recognition"

Now exists widely within the EU and underpins a number of law enforcement instruments, include the European Arrest Warrant.

"Key to this principle is a mutual trust by member states in each other's legal systems."

The battle over the extradition is being carried out in the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court where Symeou's legal team are trying to discredit the Greek police's investigation. Among their claims is that friends of Symeou, 19, of Enfield, North London, were beaten up while in Greek custody.

Jonny's dad Denzil, of Evansfield Road, Llandaff North, Cardiff, welcomed the letter on behalf of Redditch MP Jacqui Smith.

He said: "This is the first good news we have had."

The case has been adjourned until September 30.

david.james@mediawales.co.uk

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KILLED: Jonny Hiles; BATTLE: Andrew Symeou arrives at court to object to his extradition
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 22, 2008
Words:402
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