'Relieved' Scot Conor Howard to fly home after 'rollercoaster' 3 months facing Qatar extradition over £10 cannabis grinder find - and he 'could have faced 5 years in jail'
An East Lothian man is “relieved” to be finally heading home after a “rollercoaster” three months in which he faced being extradited to Qatar - because authorities there found a cannabis grinder in his luggage which he bought as a joke present for a pal.
Conor Howard was detained in Doha last October during a stopover flight between Australia and the UK and the £10 item was confiscated and he was allowed to return home.
But in August, while attempting to visit his mum, Adele, and stepdad Robert Young in Corfu, Greek authorities were notified of an outstanding international arrest warrant in his name issued by Qatar over allegations of drug possession.
The 27-year-old told the Edinburgh Evening News on Wednesday that he was initially held in a Greek prison for about a month - including 17 days quarantined in his cell - and struggled to cope with language barriers and “horrible” conditions including waking up every morning with insect bites, before he was released on bail.
During a court hearing today, Mr Howard's family were told by a council of judges that there was “no case to answer” due to lack of evidence from the Qatar authorities and he was now free to go home, although he will still need to fight the case to remove his name from the Interpol red list.
Speaking to the Evening News from Greece following the court’s decision on Wednesday, Mr Howard said he was “very relieved” to be going home.
He said: “I just want to say thank you to everyone in Scotland who has helped me through this.
“It’s been a rollercoaster and I’m just glad to be at the end of it.”
‘He could have faced five years in jail’
Mr Young, 55, told the Evening News that the family will need to return to the court in Corfu Town within the next two days to obtain a letter to annul Mr Howard’s arrest warrant for when he flies back to the UK on Saturday.
Once back on home soil, Mr Howard will then have to contact the British and Qatari embassies to work out a solution that ensures he is no longer ‘red flagged’ for travelling in future.
Mr Young also said his stepson was found guilty in absence in January in Qatar but the family was never told, and that if he were to have been extradited and convicted, he could have potentially faced up to five years in jail having missed the initial hearing.
Prior to his stopover and luggage search in Qatar last year, Mr Howard had bought a clean cannabis grinder that he wanted to bring home for a friend after a year-long trip working Down Under.
He said today he thought nothing of it at the time, and that he was never notified about any international arrest warrant for drugs charges before travelling to Corfu in August.
He added: “I would just say to anyone else to be extra cautious with everything when travelling and don’t take any risks. If you’ve got a thought that something might not be okay, just don’t do it.
“It’s completely put me off travelling to anywhere in this part of the world.”
Mr Howard is especially looking forward to going home to his girlfriend, Robyn Gordon, who he has not seen for six weeks.
He also wants to personally thank his friend, Kyle Williams, who set up a fundraising page which helped the family with legal fees, as well as human rights activist Radha Stirling and local MP Kenny MacAskill who both helped his legal case.
Mr Howard is due to arrive back in Edinburgh on Saturday evening and plans to relax for a few days and see family and friends - while adhering to the current restrictions - before thinking about returning to work as an electrician on the trains.