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'Tortured' Briton's appeal hope

21 August 09 15:47 GMT

The family of a man held in an Indian jail for nearly six years after a "blatant miscarriage of justice" are hoping he may soon get an appeal.

Patrick Malluzzo, 32, from the south-east London/Kent border, was jailed after cannabis was found in a bag of his that a friend was looking after.

He claims he confessed under torture and faced trial with no interpreter in what campaigners called a "travesty".

But the Indian Government, which made no comment, has not set an appeal date.

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 19 kg of cannabis resin.

Mr Malluzzo was not on the train and says the first he knew about it was when he was arrested at Mumbai airport as he tried to leave the country.

He maintained his innocence but says he finally confessed after police burned him with cigarettes, beat him, subjected him to sleep deprivation and applied pliers to his genitals.

At a trial carried out only in Hindi, Mr Malluzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The prosecution decided not to use the "confessions" at the hearing.

Mr Malluzzo now shares a cell with over 50 men, has had Malaria, chronic urinary infections, rat-bites and chronic tooth problems.

His mother Teresa Malluzzo, 61, said of her son's alleged torture: "I feel sick at the thought of someone hurting my child like that.

"When I found out all I could say was: 'Oh my God'.

"We are still out of our minds with worry - we don't know what or who to turn to."

Mrs Malluzzo, a housewife, continued: "It would not have even got to trial in Britain.

"Patrick used to be very gregarious and popular. It was his last backpacking trip and he was about to join the army.

"We hope his appeal can be heard by September - but we've been let down before."

Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, said: "We are absolutely convinced of Patrick's innocence.

"Patrick's trial was a travesty of justice and we are confident that as soon as the appeal court reviews the case, Patrick will be acquitted.

"We will take the case all the way to India's Supreme Court if that is what it takes to get this appeal heard."

Lawyers hope to challenge the conviction by claiming Mr Malluzzo did not receive a fair trial and that police overlooked vital evidence.

A spokeswoman for the Indian Embassy in London made no comment.

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