Shields Uncle: Bulgarian Justice System is in The Dark Ages

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | April 28, 2006, Friday // 00:00

Joey Graney is the uncle of Michael Shields, the UK teenager whom Bulgaria sentenced to 10 years in jail in an appeal hearting of his initial verdict - 15 years.

Mr Graney talked to Sofia News Agency's Deputy Editor-in-Chief Petia Bondokova.

Q: How do you feel about the news?

A: All the family are very angry, very devastated.

We want the government to act on this now. Our solicitor in Sofia found eight points where the judicial system got it wrong, and we were open for at least a re-trial. Michael was not given his right for the trial to open again, and that's so very unbelievable.

I just believe that even the people in Sofia must have seen what happened to Michael, they must have seen the unfair and unjust. The real criminal Graham Sankey got away with it.

Q: Have you already talked to Michael's parents?

A: My sister spoke to Maria, and she was devastated by the news, she was very upset. We can't believe they have come up with this decision.

We're in the process of putting pressure on our government to intervene directly. We will be writing to all European countries, we will try to get in touch with Nelson Mandela.

This is a 19-year-old kid who was accused of a crime he didn't commit; the witnesses were instigated by the police there, they didn't even see Michael, and he wasn't there - he was in bed.

We asked from day one for the forensic science to prove with DNA test that Michael was not there. We were told that they happened to have his DNA. Then we were told that they don't have it. Do you have it, or don't you have it? That's what I would like to know.

There will be uproar in Bulgaria, and there will be uproar in this country. We are going to fight to get people boycotting to go over to Bulgaria, because it's disgrace what happened to this kid.

Even some of the Bulgarian press have started writing, "I think we've been wrong here, I think we've been wrong there." Bulgaria wants to come into Europe. But is this judicial system coming to Europe? I'd like to ask you this question!

Q: Was court too hard on Michael because he is a foreigner?

A: I think the fact Michael is a foreigner affected the amount of the fine. They think Michael is an English lad, it's a rich country and they have the money to give. But Michael's mother is a cleaner, she's on the basic wage in England. His father is a part-time window cleaner.

We will take this case as high as we can. Because what the Bulgarian judicial system does is wrong. It is wrong.

Q: How do you and people around you feel about Bulgaria now?

A: There is nothing wrong with Bulgarian people. I am not talking about Bulgarian people now, I'm talking about the system. The judicial system is still in the Dark Ages. That's what's wrong with Bulgaria. The young Bulgarian people are nice people.

But at the end of the day we are talking about Michael - a young, 19-year-old innocent lad. And this program "The Lost Fan" proved that his human rights were abused, that the decision that he was guilty was wrong.

And they even stopped the priest from going to the police to Michael. Why stop a priest from going to the police to see a lad? Is that not wrong? Is that not a human right abuse?

Imagine your son being in a jail, or your nephew. And you tell me you wouldn't be angry! If the people just say, "this is our country, this is our law" you wouldn't be angry?

Q: What are you planning to do now?

A: We are definitely going to the European court of human rights, and we are trying to get the government involved, and anyone, everybody. Because we will have to highlight it, to show what an injustice has happened.

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