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Parents' plea to Miliband over jailed backpacker

10 December 09 20:46 GMT

The parents of a man in prison in India for drug-smuggling have taken their appeal for help to the Foreign Office.

Former City worker Patrick Malluzzo, of Dartford, Kent, was given a 10-year jail term in 2004. His appeal has been adjourned 12 times in three months.

Cannabis was found in a bag he had lent to a friend while travelling, but he has always maintained his innocence.

His parents met with Foreign Office officials to appeal for help from Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Teresa Malluzzo, Mr Malluzzo's mother, said: "I want to be able to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas with all my family.

"I want us to be reunited."

'Travesty of justice'

Fair Trials International said Mr Malluzzo was wrongly convicted and refused an interpreter during the trial in Rajasthan.

Its chief executive, Jago Russell, said: "Patrick's conviction was a travesty of justice and although he has a right to an appeal under both Indian and international law he has waited years to clear his name.

"We are urging the Foreign Secretary to help us persuade India finally to hear Patrick's case."

Mr Malluzzo's parents have re-mortgaged the family home to help pay their legal bills.

The Foreign Office told BBC London that consulate officials visited Mr Malluzzo on 19 November and a hearing was expected to take place on Tuesday.

Ann Widdecombe MP, a former shadow home secretary, wrote to the Chief Justice of Rajasthan earlier this year asking for Mr Malluzzo's appeal to be made "an absolute priority".

'Sleep deprivation'

Mr Malluzzo was backpacking in India in 2004 when a friend took his bag from Rajasthan to Goa so he could travel light.

The friend accidentally left three bags, including Mr Malluzzo's luggage, on a train. They were found to contain about 42 lbs (19kg) of cannabis resin.

Mr Malluzzo claims the first he knew about it was when he was arrested at Mumbai airport as he tried to leave India.

He has maintained his innocence but claims he confessed after police burned him with cigarettes, beat him and subjected him to sleep deprivation.

The prosecution at the trial, which was conducted only in Hindi, decided not to use the confessions.

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