Wednesday 21 March 2018

Irish man described by FBI as the world's 'largest facilitator of child pornography' makes bid to halt extradition

Eric Eoin Marques is facing extradition to the US
Eric Eoin Marques is facing extradition to the US

Natasha Reid

An Irish man described by the FBI as the world's 'largest facilitator of child pornography' is making a legal bid aimed at halting his extradition to the United States.

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 Mr 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.

His surrender was ordered by the High Court in 2015 December, which he opposed. His appeal against that order was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Marques also brought actions over the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in respect of the offences for which his surrender is sought. He had offered to plead guilty to the alleged offences in Ireland.

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed that action. Last month the Supreme Court turned down Marques bid to bring an appeal on that issue before it.

An application to the European Court of Human Rights, that would have put a stay on the extradition, had also been unsuccessful, the High Court has heard.

Mr Marques has now launched fresh judicial review proceedings aimed at halting his surrender over the Minister for Justice's alleged refusal to use her discretion to halt his extradition.

Mr Marques was not present in the High Court for today hearing before Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly. However, his barrister, Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, spent much of the hearing outlining why his client should have access to records that were before the minister when she allegedly refused to use her discretion.

He said he needed the documents to find out ‘did the minister actually choose not to make a decision whether to exercise her discretion not to extradite’.

As for his grounds for judicial review, Mr O’Higgins said the minister should have had the DPP’s reasons not to prosecute him here, and that she should have advanced those reasons to his client. He also wanted to ascertain if she’d had regard to irrelevant considerations and had not had regard to relevant considerations.

He also said an issue of fairness arose, especially when the requested material was in the possession of one party and that no indication had been given about a difficulty or problem providing it.

“It doesn’t appear to be claimed that what we’re seeking is irrelevant, but solely that it not necessary,” he said.

He added that it was of note that the respondent (the minister) was not asserting privilege or confidentiality.

“I say that as a matter of fundamental fair procedures, it is necessary in a public law case that a decision maker places face-up on the table the cards the decision maker has,” he continued. “Not only do we not have the cards face-up, we don’t even have the cards uniquely in the possession of the minister.”

He said his client argued that it was a breach of natural justice and fair procedure not to be given the DPP’s reasons and not to be given a chance to reply to those reasons.

“My client should be given a chance to make meaningful submissions,” he said.

Counsel for the minister has been given until close of business on Wednesday to provide an amended statement of opposition. The hearing will then continue on Friday.

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