RESIDENT EXCLUSIVE by DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
A trip with friends to watch the European football championship in Portugal in 2004 ended abruptly for Garry Mann after he was arrested and charged with causing a riot in Albufeira.
Now, nearly six years later, Garry Mann is fighting to avoid being extradited back to Portugal to serve a two-year prison sentence he believed he would never have to serve.
The former fireman from Kent, along with several other football supporters, was arrested on June 15 before being tried and convicted of causing the riot within 48 hours under a temporary fast track procedure set up ahead of the championship to combat football hooliganism.
In an exclusive interview with the Algarve Resident, Garry Mann describes Portugal as being “a dictatorship, not a democracy, with a dishonest and corrupt police-force” adding that “the people of the Algarve should be ashamed of the GNR and the rest of the authorities”.
The confusion in the case of Garry Mann centres on the fact that he believes he was told that he would not have to serve his sentence if he left the country.
“I was informed, before I was voluntarily deported, that my sentence was “varied” and that if I returned to Portugal within one year I would be imprisoned for two.”
So, when he was served with a European Arrest Warrant in March 2009, he was “astonished”.
“I had been working as a fire-fighter and living with my family for the past five years before Europol police knocked on my door and arrested me. I had no contact from the Portuguese authorities until that moment.”
The treatment of Garry Mann under the fast track proceedings had already been condemned by UK magistrates in 2005. Justice Stephen Day said at the time that he found the trial in Portugal to have been “so unfair as to be incompatible with the respondents’ right to a fair trial,” adding that “it would be unfair to rely upon the Portuguese conviction”.
Garry Mann told the Algarve Resident: “I was made an example of to bring an abrupt end to anymore violence. I believe that the English and Portuguese authorities conspired against me making me a scapegoat.”
According to Garry Mann, his case has highlighted the treatment of English football fans abroad: “All the European authorities seem to have a free reign to attack and abuse any English football fans and will sometimes initiate attacks to get a response. Then they blame the English for violence and use whatever force they want on the English, and even my government sends out signals that they don’t care what the European authorities do to English fans.”
Having never visited Portugal until the football championships, Garry Mann says that he found the people here to be “generally friendly and helpful”.
However, this is countered by his experience with the GNR and the justice system.
“The GNR on my arrest beat and urinated on me, shouting obscenities. While in custody, I was mistreated and refused access to a lawyer. After the court case at the detention centre, I was threatened with a shotgun pointed at my head.”
The Portuguese justice system is considered to be “corrupt, unjust and seriously floored” by Garry Mann, who believes, based on his experience, that it is not possible for someone to have a fair trial in Portugal.
Garry Mann claims that he was “unable to follow court proceedings due to inadequate interpretation; was not informed of allegations against me and was not given sufficient time to prepare for the court appearance”.
The case of Garry Mann is currently being used by Fair Trials International to highlight their Justice in Europe: The Arrest Warrant campaign.
A statement on the Fair Trials International website says: “In practice, the system has been interpreted as leaving no scope for the British courts to prevent an extradition even when, as in this case, it would lead to clear injustice.”
Garry Mann, who has now retired from the fire service following the arrest warrant, is being backed in his case against extradition by Fair Trials International, family and friends, and the next individual review of his case is due to be heard today (Friday).
“I hope and believe that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg can give me justice,” he said.
Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]