Home Brussels Qatargate: Italian court postpones MEP Cozzolino’s extradition hearing

Qatargate: Italian court postpones MEP Cozzolino’s extradition hearing

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The Naples Court of Appeal on Tuesday postponed to March 14 a decision on extraditing Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino to Belgium.

The hearing, originally scheduled for February 14, had already been pushed back two weeks due to apparent lack of documentation.

Italian newswire ANSA reported how Cozzolino’s defense lawyers Federico Conte and Vincenzo Domenico Ferraro are arguing that Belgian authorities failed to make available important documentation concerning the arrest warrant. Most of the documents provided were in French and only some parts had been translated into Italian, they added. According to Cozzolino’s lawyers, this makes for “good reason to doubt that the Belgian judicial system could guarantee a fair trial.”

Dezio Ferraro, one of Cozzolino’s defense lawyers, cited lacking “transparency on the conditions of Cozzolino once transferred to Belgium.” Lawyers have expressed concerns on the conditions of Belgian prisons due to overcrowding and violence among prisoners as noted in a 2022 report from the Council of Europe.

“We have requested more information on Cozzolino’s treatment, in particular in relations to his health treatment given that he has heart problems,” Ferraro added.

“I believe that by Mach 14 the requested documentation will be provided, but we have numerous other arguments to make in our favor,” Ferraro told POLITICO.

Cozzolino was present at today’s hearing in Naples and denied any wrongdoing.

Andrea Cozzolino was arrested on February 10 in an expanding probe around alleged corruption in the European Parliament. As part of the so-called Qatargate investigation, the Belgian prosecution has charged him and several others with participation in a criminal organization, corruption and money laundering. He has been under house arrest since February 11 at his residence in Vomero, the hilltop district of Naples.

On the day of the arrest, Belgian police had also searched Cozzolino’s home in Brussels and sealed, but not searched, his office in the European Parliament building.

Belgian prosecutors suspect Cozzolino of participating in a cash-for-influence arrangement that involved preventing the adoption of parliamentary resolutions potentially harmful to the interests of foreign states, during his time as a lawmaker from 2018 to 2022.

Since 2019, he has been president of the delegation for relations with Maghreb countries and co-president of the Euro-Moroccan Joint Parliamentary Committee, as well as a member of the Pegasus special committee that has been investigating allegations over the use of Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of journalists, activists and politicians.

CORRECTION: The name of the Cozzolino’s attorney has been changed to reflect who commented.

This article has been updated to include comment from Cozzolino’s attorney.

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