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Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Wednesday, 18 July 2007 12:52 UK

'ID theft left me in Slovenian prison'

Kofi Sekyere
Kofi was on holiday in Ljubljana
Earlier this month, BBC Sport's Kofi Sekyere flew to Slovenia on holiday - only to land up in prison. Someone using his stolen passport was wanted for fraud, and his name was on an international arrest warrant.

The knock on my hotel door came after just one night in Slovenia. I'd flown to Ljubljana to join friends on holiday; it had been a long night of drinking and I'd stumbled to bed in the early hours of the morning.

I was woken at about 9am by hotel reception telling me the police wanted to see me. I was tired, confused and hung-over. It was my birthday and I thought my mates had set me up.

I realised they hadn't when the officers handcuffed me and took me to the station in a police van. They told me an international warrant had been issued by German police in March but I still didn't know what for.

I remembered my passport had been stolen when my flat was burgled by a crack addict seven years ago. He'd been caught but my passport was never recovered. I'd reported it stolen and was issued with a new one.

Ljubljana
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia
The arrest warrant had a photo which obviously wasn't me and the passport number didn't even match my own. It was all so absurd I thought the mix-up would be sorted within hours. Instead I found myself in a Slovenian court.

British consulate staff were there to help and I also had an interpreter, but it was frightening not really understanding what was going on. I was told the charge was defrauding a company in Germany of 450,000 euros.

The judge decided she needed more information and I was detained under judicial arrest and sent to prison. I was terrified, having never even been in a police station before.

I was put in a cell on my own. I couldn't eat or sleep; every time I heard a warden I prayed they'd unlock my door and let me go. In the morning I was processed into the prison system, given a medical and issued with clothes. Now I was part of the prison system, would I just be left here?

Lost dignity

For one hour a day I was allowed to exercise outside. I was scared about mixing with other inmates, of what they might do. I saw one prisoner staring at me - he asked if I was from Ghana, which I am. He'd visited the country and we walked together and chatted.

He told me he was accused of molesting a child. I didn't ask any more. This was a person I'd never come across in my normal life, let alone talk to if I knew what he was accused of, but I just needed someone to talk to.

I will always be fearful that something else will happen, who knows what else could have been done by someone using my name
That afternoon I was back in court. Even though documents were sent over proving my passport had been stolen and that I was at work in London when the crime had been committed, I was sent back to prison. This time another man was put in the cell with me. He was from Pakistan and could speak English. He was in prison over some family dispute but said he was innocent.

He really helped me, we just talked and supported each other. But I still felt as if I was being stripped of my dignity, everything I did was dictated to me and I was already getting into the prison routine. I realised all the little things we take for granted every day.

Reprieve

After a second long night, my door opened. A warden told me I was free, the situation had been sorted. I hugged my cellmate, we were both crying. I was given five minutes to clear my cell and walk out the prison.

Kofi Sekyere and Slovenian policeman
No hard feelings: Kofi with one of his arresting officers
My brother, who'd flown over from the UK, collected me with consulate staff. My flight was the next day so I booked into a hotel and to kill time I went for a walk with my brother. By coincidence we bumped into one of the policemen who'd arrested me.

He said he thought I was not the right man, but had to do his job - and he didn't want me to go away with a bad impression of Slovenia or its people. I haven't. But psychologically it's hit me hard and will always live with me. My name has been removed from international "wanted persons" files but I still worry about travelling.

I will always be fearful that something else will happen - who knows what else could have been done by someone using my name.


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