CONCERN is mounting for a backpacker who has spent six years in an Indian jail protesting his innocence over possession of a large quantity of cannabis. Patrick Malluzzo is suffering from malaria, chronic urinary tract infection, depression and rat bites, but refuses steadfastly to serve his sentence in the UK.
To do so would mean abandoning his appeal which the courts in Rajasthan, north-west India, keep adjourning. Every week it is listed for hearing and every week there is another delay – with no high court judge available because of “holidays” or “sickness”. Twice it has been partly heard and then abandoned. Fair Trials International (FTI), which is now representing Mr Malluzzo and maintains that his trial and conviction were “a grave travesty of justice”, is so concerned about the case it has asked the foreign secretary to try to persuade the Indian authorities to get on with the appeal.
A televised confession
Mr Malluzzo, now 32, says he was subjected to psychological and physical torture, including sleep deprivation and being burned with cigarettes, before being made to make a televised confession and sign documents in Hindi – a language he did not understand.
He was just 26, and working as an administrator in a London City bank when he decided to take some time out in 2003 and travel around India and the Far East. He had teamed up on his travels with a fellow British backpacker and had booked tickets to travel south to Goa. In the event he decided to spend a little more time touring Rajasthan, so he arranged to meet up with his new companion a little later but asked him to take some of his belongings on to Goa so he could travel light.
They never got to meet up again because after the train left Delhi police found three bags under the seats booked in the two men’s names. One was Patrick’s, with his clothing and belongings including a prescription, a second belonged to his companion – and a third contained 19kg of cannabis in 35 separate packs. Patrick is adamant he had never seen the third bag, and indeed nothing belonging to him was found in it.
Back to the scene of the ‘crime’
Between the time the bag was found and Patrick’s arrest in January 2004, he had left India for a while to watch cricket with his uncle in Sri Lanka and then returned – odd behaviour for someone who thought he might be at risk of arrest.
Patrick, who has never been in any kind of trouble before, was so badly served by his original trial lawyers no account of what had happened was taken from him and he was given no chance to answer the claims in court. Police failed to gather any other evidence, such as witness statements from other passengers about who was accompanying the bags, or train records about who had boarded – or any DNA or fingerprint evidence in relation to the drugs and the bag. As the trial took place in Hindi, he had little idea what was happening – only that he was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined 100,000 rupees (£1,350).
Curiously his companion was tried separately and acquitted even though an address associated with him was searched and found to contain another 8kg of cannabis. He was furthermore caught again with large quantities of the drug after Patrick’s arrest, and he had also been arrested in 1998 with a further 7kg. He was last known still to be in India. Even though Patrick’s own trial lawyers had this information which would have assisted his case, it was kept from the trial.
His new lawyers in India have now made a large number of applications to the chief justice of Rajasthan in a bid to ensure the appeal is not adjourned again. So far they have been ignored.