East Lothian man arrested on holiday after being placed on most wanted list over £10 weed grinder
A young Scottish man was last night at the centre of a bizarre jail nightmare after it emerged he was placed on an international most wanted list without knowing it - for being found with a £10 piece of drugs paraphernalia in his luggage nearly a year ago.
Conor Howard was detained by authorities in Qatar last October during a stopover on a flight between Australia and the UK after they found a small plastic cannabis grinder he had intended to bring home as an amusing present for a pal following a year-long trip working Down Under.
The 27-year-old project manager from Tranent spent six hours in cells before returning home and thought no more of his brush with Middle Eastern justice.
But he has now been arrested in Corfu, hundreds of miles from Qatar, after attempting to join his parents on holiday in the Mediterranean after Greek immigration authorities realised there was an international arrest warrant in his name issued by Qatar.
He is now being held in a Greek prison with the possibility of being extradited to Qatar to serve a hefty prison sentence.
Adele, 53, and Robert Young, 55, his parents who are both from Tranent, and work with the NHS, were then left to scramble for legal support.Unfortunately, the language barrier posed many boundaries, but the couple were informed that there was a 99.9 percent chance that Conor will be extradited to Qatar and could face a year in jail.It is alleged that the Council of Judges and prosecutors office responsible for dealing with cases of this nature had said that they must respect the courts of Qatar and respond to the warrant.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page set up by Conor's friends to pay for legal assistance has already raised more than £8,000.Robert told the Edinburgh Evening News: “We are emotional, stressed, and my anxiety levels are through the roof. Adele had someone phone her this morning but she could not hold back the tears. We are just having to support each other in this really difficult time.
“It is crazy the lack of support we have received from the British Embassy in Greece and the language barrier involving lawyers is so difficult.
“The embassy gave us a list of Qatari lawyers to contact who can speak English if he is extradited but none of them have got back to us and we have not been filled with confidence.
“But that said so many local people are trying to help us by taking us up and down to the court and jail. The waiting game in between is so painful and the no answers is so difficult. At least in Britain they could scream back at us in the same language.
“What the laddies have done with the gofundme thing has brought us to tears and we cannot believe what is going on. The international arrest warrant was seemingly raised on July 8 this year so why has it taken this long?
“We need the support now of the British authorities to get Conor home. Any support from the Scottish or British government at this time would be greatly received.”
Conor’s case in Qatar was reheard in January and the International Arrest Warrant for drug trafficking was issued in July of this year and it is understood that he has a right to appeal his case.
Qatari authorities claim he had Indian hemp oil on his person at the time of the arrest but this is at odds with the recollection of events being presented by Conor and his family.
Robert said: “If he had oil then why on earth would he need a grinder? I’m not a drug user and never have been but surely it doesn’t add up.”
His friend Kyle Williams, 27, also from Tranent, helped to set up the GoFundMe appeal that has raised over £8,000 in 24 hours.
He said: “It is hard to describe it and it is so surreal. Conor is just a standard everyday guy and this just shows it could have happened to anybody. He’s not a troublemaker or a drug smuggler, nothing like this happens to us and we are not used to it. He is just one of the boys.
“No one can believe it back home in East Lothian, the whole community has already come together and that has been brilliant. Hopefully, we can get him home soon.”
The Foreign Office and Home Office have been contacted for comment but have not responded at the time of publishing.
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