Wednesday 7 December 2016

State's case to surrender alleged 'largest facilitator of child porn in the world' to US begins in High Court

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 29/06/2015 | 17:36

Eric Eoin Marques, who is wanted by US authorities
Eric Eoin Marques, who is wanted by US authorities

The State's case to surrender an Irishman alleged to be the "largest facilitator of child porn in the world" to US authorities has been opened in the High Court.

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Eric Eoin Marques, who is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting, is wanted by the US authorities to face charges relating to conspiring to distribute and advertise child pornography and advertising and distributing child pornography.

The charges against Marques relate to images on over a hundred “anonymous websites” described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.

The 30-year-old with an address at Mountjoy Square in central Dublin, has been in custody since his arrest in August 2013, after he was refused bail over concerns he represented a flight risk and that he may abscond or interfere with evidence in the case.

Counsel for the State, Patrick McGrath SC, opened the case today in the High Court during which the history of proceedings involving Mr Marques were detailed in open court.

Marques has both Irish and US citizenship. He was born to a Portuguese father and Irish mother in New York in 1985 and moved to this State when he was five years old.

In May of this year he was diagnosed with Asbergers syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, by a psychiatrist and senior clinical psychologist from Dublin's Mater Hospital, Professor Patricia Casey and Dr Odhran McCarthy and concerns were raised that his health may be at risk in the American prison system.

Among the many documents Mr McGrath read to the court, was an affidavit by a US official who stated that it appeared Mr Marques' medical condition was “manageable” and the US Federal Bureau of Prisons was “currently providing treatment to inmates with these conditions”.

The US official stated that the Bureau of Prisons would be able to provide appropriate care for Mr Marques should he be extradited and prosecuted on the alleged offences, the court heard today.

Mr Marques is also seeking a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision not to prosecute him in Ireland.

Opening the judical review proceedings this afternoon, Mícheál P O'Higgins SC, for Mr Marques, said his client had offered to plead guilty to the alleged offences on signed pleas in the District Court so that he could be sent forward for sentencing in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Mr O'Higgins said the alleged act of distribution occured in this jurisdiction and while US officials were seeking to prosecute Mr Marques for the alleged offences in Maryland, the same could be said about any country in the world with internet access.

Furthermore, his extradition would be entirely disproportionate, Mr O'Higgins said.

In Ireland, the alleged offences did not amount to a crime so heinous that a person would be imprisoned for the rest of his life – he would receive a determinate sentence – while in the United States, he would effectively receive a life sentence without the possibility for parole, Mr O'Higgins said.

The case continues before Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly tomorrow.

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