Briton held in Hungarian prison to make legal bid

BBC News | March 10, 2011

A British man imprisoned in Hungary without trial is preparing to launch legal action against the UK and Hungarian authorities for compensation.

Michael Turner, of Dorset, and business partner Jason McGoldrick, of Devon, were held for four months.

They were extradited from the UK in 2009 after their firm collapsed in 2005, allegedly owing about £18,000.

The Home Office said its extradition process was under review. The Hungarian Embassy was not available for comment.

"We acknowledge there are issues there," a Home Office spokesman said, adding the review would report back in the summer.

Mr Turner and Mr McGoldrick had run a time-share marketing business based in Budapest. 

The Hungarian authorities used the European Arrest Warrant, valid throughout the EU, to have the pair extradited for suspected fraud.

After spending 17 weeks in the former KGB prison without trial, the pair were released but no official reason was given. 

One shower
Mr Turner, of Corfe Castle, said he was now pursuing compensation, with help from Fair Trials International, because he felt let down down by the UK Government and the ordeal had ruined his life. 

Fair Trials International said the European Arrest Warrant was "used prematurely" while an investigation into the business was still continuing and no decision had been made yet whether to prosecute Mr Turner. 

Mr Turner said: "I spent 23 hours locked in a cell, 20ft by 11ft, with four other people. 

"I was allowed one shower a week, although I was told I must keep myself clean.

"They gave you a bowl and a bar of soap to do that.

"When I was released after four months, I had enormous pains in my legs and couldn't walk properly, through lack of exercise."

Mr Turner added he could have been held in the prison for three years and was "lucky" to have had a support network at home to push for his release. 

The families and supporters of both Mr Turner and Mr McGoldrick held demonstrations outside the House of Commons and the Hungarian embassy in London while they were being held. 

High-profile campaign
William Dartmouth, UKIP MEP for the West Country, has said a high-profile campaign by Mr Turner's father, Mark Turner, and extensive media coverage of the case had undoubtedly put pressure on Hungarian authorities to release the men.

The campaign also received support from the then South Dorset Labour MP Jim Knight.

Fair Trials International said thousands of people had been unlawfully imprisoned abroad, without trial, because of the European Arrest Warrant.

They said Mr Turner was interviewed by police only once during his four-month imprisonment.

"The European Arrest Warrant was intended to be used explicitly to extradite people to serve a prison sentence or for the purposes of a criminal prosecution," the organisation said on its website.

"Fair Trials International is concerned that, in Michael's case, an extradition took place even though no decision had yet been made to prosecute him for any criminal offence."