Thursday 17 October 2019

No jail for maimed war veteran who airport staff thought was 'legless drunk'

Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy with an address at Annally Terrace, Ongar, Clonsilla, Dublin was maimed during conflict in his homeland
Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy with an address at Annally Terrace, Ongar, Clonsilla, Dublin was maimed during conflict in his homeland

Tom Tuite

A ONE-LEGGED war veteran, who was arrested at Dublin airport after staff thought he was "legless drunk", has been spared a sentence and an assault conviction.

Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy with an address at Annally Terrace, Ongar, Clonsilla, Dublin was maimed during conflict in his homeland, Libya.

The 29-year-old business student pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breach of the peace, being intoxicated in public and obstruction and assault of an authorised officer at Terminal One, on January 29 last.

The Libyan business student also admitted criminal damage inside a Garda car and to a mattress in a cell at Ballymun Garda station.

However, in April a judge had given him a chance to avoid a criminal record and a sentence after noting the “unusual circumstances” of his arrest.

He returned to court today after paying €260 for the damage caused in the Garda station cell, and he had a receipt to show he had donated €400 to charity.

Judge Carol Anne Coolican noted he had complied with an order made earlier by another judge and she struck out the case.

Dublin District Court had heard evidence that the student began spitting when gardai were called and arrested him. However, things escalated after his arrest and he wrecked a mattress in a Garda station cell.

Defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew said her client was very apologetic but there were unusual circumstances to the incident.

He had lost a leg during the war to topple Libyan leader Gaddafi.

Later he lost some fingers as a result of an ISIS bomb blast, she said.

On the day of his arrest he had packed his crutches in his baggage.

He drank one glass of wine that reacted badly with his medication, the solicitor said, and the airport staff thought he was intoxicated and offered him a wheelchair which he declined.

The situation escalated and gardai were called.

He now had a scholarship from the Libyan government to study in Ireland.

His family were doctors and lived in Turkey.

The solicitor had said the airport staff assumed Ellihidy “was legless drunk as opposed to being actually legless”.

The student, who had no prior convictions, was sorry for actions, the court heard.

Judge John Brennan, who had heard the evidence during tHe hearing in April, described Ellihidy’s behaviour as “purely appalling”. He added, however, that they were most unusual circumstances in which the accused was a veteran who had suffered badly through his patriotism.

He also remarked that it seemed unusual that one glass of wine led to this behaviour and clearly the accused cannot mix alcohol because it caused him to overreact.

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