Dublin gang leader Liam Byrne is fighting his extradition from Spain to Britain on the basis he would suffer “inhumane and degrading treatment” if held in a British prison.
His lawyer, Jaime Campaner, is alleging there is a “real risk” Mr Byrne’s fundamental right to physical and moral integrity will be in danger if his extradition, to stand trial on firearms charges, is facilitated by the Spanish authorities.
He is also claiming the approval of the Irishman’s extradition would violate his human rights because the only evidence against him are hacked messages on encrypted communications network, EncroChat. Mr Campaner last week put forward his objections to the extradition at a hearing of Spain’s Audencia Nacional court. However, details of that hearing have only just emerged.
Mr Campaner has cited the severe overcrowding in some UK prisons. He also highlighted the recent escape of terror suspect Daniel Khalife from Wandsworth Prison, which triggered controversy over staff shortages and conditions in the prison system.
Criminal lawyer, and extradition specialist, Mr Campaner is also insisting the British authorities reveal in advance which prison Mr Byrne would be held in if extradited.
Mr Byrne (42), from Crumlin, Dublin, watched the proceedings via video link from a prison near Palma where he remains in custody following his arrest in June. He is the former leader of the Dublin-based “Byrne organised crime group”, which effectively ran much of the Kinahan cartel’s Irish operation for years.
He left Ireland in the wake of the Kinahan-Hutch feud-related gun attack at the Regency Hotel, north Dublin, in 2016, and as he was targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Mr Byrne was arrested in a restaurant in Alcúdia, Mallorca, in June at the request of the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Britain. He had travelled to the Spanish island from Dubai, where he had been living, for a family holiday.
The British authorities allege Mr Byrne was part of an organised crime group sourcing firearms to sell to other gangs while he was based in Britain before moving to Dubai.
He faces several charges, including conspiring to: possess a firearm without a certificate; possess ammunition for a firearm without a certificate; possess a prohibited weapon; possess prohibited ammunition; pervert the course of justice.
One of his co-accused is his nephew Jack Kavanagh (22). He was arrested in Málaga just days before Mr Byrne while on a stopover as he travelled from Dubai to Turkey. His arrest also followed a request from the British authorities and his separate extradition appeal was also held last Tuesday
Mr Kavanagh grew up in Tamworth in Britain in a Dublin family and is the son of Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh, a man jailed for 21 years in Britain last year for his leading role in smuggling the Kinahans’ drugs into the UK.
Thomas Kavanagh effectively ran the cartel’s UK operation and he is also one of the men set to stand trial over the gun running-allegations.
It has also emerged the Spanish authorities have sent a formal request to their counterparts in Ireland in a bid to establish whether Mr Byrne, and co-accused Jack Kavanagh, are wanted to stand trial in the Republic on any charges. That request must be made when a citizen from an EU member state is being extradited to a so-called “third country” outside the EU.
However, Garda sources said they were not aware of any outstanding charges against either man, meaning a decision on their extradition to Britain was not expected to be delayed by any legal process in the Republic.