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Jailed backpacker 'needs UK help'

4 December 09 12:41 GMT

Government intervention is needed to help a British backpacker jailed in India, his supporters have said.

Former City worker Patrick Malluzzo, of Dartford, Kent, was convicted of drug smuggling 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.

Fair Trials International has called on the British government to raise his case with the Indian authorities.

'Grave concern'

They said Mr Malluzzo, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, was wrongly convicted and refused an interpreter during the trial in Rajasthan.

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: "We think the thing that will make a real difference is if this case is raised at the highest levels by British government ministers, by the foreign secretary to ensure that the Indian authorities realise that this is a case of grave concern for the British government."

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

His mother Teresa Malluzzo said her son's health had been affected by his time in prison.

She said: "Obviously he gets very depressed and very low about it and thinking why isn't anybody helping.

"The questions are always why, 'why am I left here to die'.

"That is why we have to get him out, for his sanity. He's almost six years into this prison sentence and it's just unbearable."

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 (19 kg) of cannabis resin.

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

He 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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