December 13, 2019 / 4:25 PM / a month ago

Ruling on Irish extradition over UK truck deaths set for Jan 24

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s High Court will decide on Jan. 24 whether to approve the extradition of a Northern Irish man to Britain to face charges of manslaughter over the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people found in the back of a truck near London in October.

British authorities have sought Eamonn Harrison, 22, on charges of human trafficking and immigration offences, as well as the 39 offences of manslaughter in a case which has shone a light on the illicit human smuggling trade.

Harrison has challenged the order. His lawyer has argued that a lack of information in the warrant about the place of death and how Harrison was involved made it “fundamentally defective”.

British officials, citing mobile phone analysis, cell tower data, and CCTV footage, allege that Harrison delivered the trailer in which the people were found to a Belgian port before its onward journey to Britain, Ronan Kennedy, a lawyer for the Irish state said on Friday.

Kennedy argued that European Arrest warrants are designed for quick arrests and do not need to be as specific as the defense suggested.

Britain began extradition proceedings on Nov. 1, a week after the discovery of the bodies at an industrial estate.

Irish Judge Donald Binchy had said he wanted to clear all extradition requests by year-end due to the uncertainty over Brexit. But on Friday he said this was no longer such a concern, a reference to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory and clear path to approving a divorce deal with the European Union.

Binchy said it would take him some time to consider the submissions and that he would give his judgment on Jan. 24.

The discovery of the bodies in the back of a refrigerated truck after being smuggled into Britain highlighted how poor citizens of Asia, Africa and the Middle East pay large sums of cash to middlemen for perilous, illicit journeys to the West.

Police in Vietnam have arrested 10 people in connection with the deaths. The British driver of the truck has admitted plotting to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

Another man from Northern Ireland has been charged with conspiring to arrange the travel of people with a view to their exploitation, and conspiracy to break immigration laws.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Graham Fahy; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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