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Monday, July 27, 2009

 

Grandmother Wanted in France Convicted 20 Years Ago

British Grandmother Wanted in France

Woman Says She Didn't Know She Was Convicted 20 Years Ago

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Deborah Dark
Fair Trials International

Deborah Dark, 45, didn't know she was convicted on drug charges in France.

(July 27) -- Deborah Dark, 45, has been a fugitive in France for 20 years -- without knowing it.
The grandmother from London has lost her job and gone into debt after discovering her criminal status when she attempted to travel internationally and landed in police custody.
When Dark was 24 in 1988, she was stopped at a French border while on her way home from a vacation in Spain. Agents searched her car and uncovered cannabis under the floor and in the sunroof, reported The Times of London.
A French court believed her when she said she hadn't known she was transporting the drug and suspected her boyfriend was responsible. She was acquitted and went home to Britain.
But what Dark and her lawyer said they didn't know was that the prosecution later appealed successfully and sentenced her to six years in prison in her absence.
It wasn't until 2007, when she tried to travel with a friend to Turkey, that she ran into trouble.
"I knew something was wrong as soon as I arrived at passport control," she said, according to Fair Trials International, a group based in London.
"Customs police arrested me at gunpoint," but no one there or back on her home turf could find an outstanding warrant.
"I assumed it must have been a dreadful error," Dark said.
She ran into the same problem when she returned from Spain a year later, though, and was arrested both in Spain and back in Britain. She finally learned that there was a warrant for her arrest issued in 2005.
Although courts in Spain and Britain have refused to extradite Dark, saying too much time had passed, the French are still seeking her return. She says that makes her a prisoner at home, unable to leave the country to visit her elderly father in Spain.
Fair Trials International is calling on French authorities to drop their request for her extradition.

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