Saturday 29 April 2017

Du Plantier family is hopeful for hearing on extradition

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE family of a slain French filmmaker has predicted that a landmark extradition hearing will go ahead in the Supreme Court next month.

A spokesman for the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier said they were "optimistic" about the case proceeding despite an application for it to be sent back to the High Court.

Former journalist Ian Bailey (54) wants the Supreme Court to rule that an extradition order be reheard in the High Court after revelations contained in new documents only supplied to the defence last month.

The documents include a 45-page critique and overview of the entire Garda Siochana murder probe compiled in 2001.

The documents include:

• Allegations that a garda made improper attempts to ensure a prosecution proceeded.

• Claims that another garda offered cannabis as "a reward" if an addict provided key information in the probe.

• Allegations that there was another suspect in the case other than Mr Bailey.

The cannabis claim was vehemently denied by gardai -- but prosecutors expressed concern that it hinted at "unsafe ... investigative practices".

Dismissed

But last night, one garda source dismissed the second suspect revelation as "a load of old hat".

"Anyone connected to the case knew that there was a suspect being looked at very closely overseas -- but that individual had a lock-tight alibi," he said.

The individual was known to Sophie and is understood to have met with her in west Cork after she purchased her holiday home at Toormore outside Schull.

However, the individual provided information which satisfied authorities that he could not have been in west Cork on December 22/23, 1996, when the killing occurred.

Englishman Mr Bailey -- who has vehemently protested his innocence -- is fighting extradition to France where he faces questioning and possible trial over the death of the mother of one in 1996. His legal team wants the High Court, which ordered his extradition last March, to rehear the case in light of the revelations contained within state files released to them last month.

But Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Sophie's parents Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, said they were now "hopeful and quite optimistic" that the Supreme Court would not get involved in the controversy generated by the documentation but would proceed with the core extradition issue.

"We do not believe it is relevant," Mr Spilliaert told the Irish Independent.

He said aspects of the original Irish murder investigation were not central to the core extradition issue now at hand.

"We believe the issue is whether the French judicial system is fair and balanced. That is what we believe the Supreme Court will focus on," he added.

The Supreme Court will hear the defence application on January 13 next. If it is sent back to the High Court, the entire extradition process -- which began in April 2010 -- faces being delayed for months.

However, if the Supreme Court rejects the High Court rehearing application, the full extradition appeal will be heard by a five-judge Supreme Court panel on January 16.

Sophie's parents plan to travel to west Cork on January 10 next, with Sophie's aunt, Marie-Madeline Opalka, to mark the 15th anniversary of their daughter's death. Nobody has ever been charged with her killing.

Irish Independent

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