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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 00:23 GMT
Stephen Jakobi: Legal eagle with bite
Stephen Jakobi: Bringer of hope
Stephen Jakobi, the founder of Fair Trials Abroad, has been appointed an OBE for his efforts on behalf of EU citizens imprisoned around the globe.

It is ironic that Stephen Jakobi was nominated for his award by the UK's Foreign Office. For much of the past 12 years, he has been pressurising the FO into doing more for UK citizens incarcerated overseas.

Mr Jakobi, a lawyer, set up Fair Trials Abroad (FTA) after widespread public outrage over the case of Karen Smith, a British citizen arrested in Thailand for drug smuggling and who was tried without proper legal representation or redress.

He launched his campaign in the Guardian newspaper "to help citizens from the European Union accused of a crime in a country other than their own to assert their rights to due administration of justice".

After winning a pardon for Ms Smith, Mr Jakobi worked from an office at home, using his limited resources and legal skill to save scores of British and EU citizens who had wound up in foreign prisons, often on trumped-up charges.

Louise Woodward
Jakobi assisted the British nanny Louise Woodward
Today much of his work involves finding and securing proper legal representation for people who may have committed a crime under a foreign jurisdiction and face a trial in which they are to be denied a proper defence.

FTA, now a registered charity which employs a number of staff, has never been more in demand and today handles between 100 and 150 cases at any one time.

Other high-profile cases have kept Mr Jakobi in the headlines.

FTA worked on behalf of Louise Woodward, the British nanny convicted of shaking to death a baby in her care in Massachusetts and released in 1998 after spending 10 months in prison.

Unfinished business

Then there was Ian Stillman, a deaf Christian charity worker with only one leg, who was released from jail in India in 2002 after being convicted of drugs offences.

Another involved a group of 14 British and Dutch plane spotters, convicted of espionage in Greece in 2002.

All later had their convictions quashed but Mr Jakobi still remains furious about the case.

"For sheer farce the plane spotters in Greece stands out," he says. "I have never seen anything like that in Europe."

Planespotters arrested in Greece on suspicion of spying
A group of EU planespotters received advice from FTA
The case of Allan John Davis, from Southampton, who was sentenced to life in Thailand for attempting to sell heroin to a police informer, also continues to exercise Mr Jakobi, who says "he was obviously set up and he has now been there 15 years".

Beyond this, he has become embroiled in the cases of four Britons who are currently being held as terror suspects by the US military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I am concerned that other Europeans are now being released as a result of collective pressure but that we are still getting nowhere in our negotiations regarding the Britons out there, " he said recently.

"What about this much vaunted 'special relationship' which doesn't seem to be working?"

A dozen years down the road, it seems as if Stephen Jakobi's campaigning spirit is more relevent than ever.


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