High Court hears objections as man the FBI dubbed world's 'largest facilitator of child pornography' tries to halt extradition

High Court hears objections as man the FBI dubbed world's 'largest facilitator of child pornography' tries to halt extradition
Eric Eoin Marquez

The High Court has heard objections to a legal bid by an Irish man, described by the FBI as the world's 'largest facilitator of child pornography', aimed at halting his extradition to the United States.

Eric Eoin Marques, who is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting, is wanted by the US authorities to face charges relating to conspiring to distribute and advertise child pornography and advertising and distributing child pornography.

The charges against Mr Marques relate to images on more than 100 “anonymous websites” described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.

The 30-year-old with an address at Mountjoy Square in central Dublin, has been in custody since his arrest in August 2013.

His surrender was ordered by the High Court in December 2015, which he opposed. His appeal against that order was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Marques also brought actions over the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in respect of the offences for which his surrender is sought. He had offered to plead guilty to the alleged offences in Ireland.

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed that action. Last month the Supreme Court turned down Marques bid to bring an appeal on that issue before it.

An application to the European Court of Human Rights, that would have put a stay on the extradition, had also been unsuccessful, the High Court has heard.

Mr Marques has launched fresh judicial review proceedings aimed at halting his surrender over the Minister for Justice's alleged refusal to use her discretion to halt his extradition.

Previously, Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, for Mr Marques, has argued that his client should have access to records that were before the minister when she allegedly refused to use her discretion.

Mr Marques was not present in the High Court for today (Friday’s) hearing before Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, during which objections to the grounds for judicial review were raised.

Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Patrick McGrath SC, told the court that discovery of documents may be granted where there is a factual dispute in a case.

That is not even suggested in this case, he said.

Mr McGrath added that a judicial review is concerned with the decision-making process, not the merits of a case, and therefore discovery is not necessary.

A further objection, he told the court, was that Mr Marques' application to access the records was a "fishing-expedition".

He said that Mr O'Higgins' suggestion that the Minister may have had regard to "irrelevant considerations" amounts to "speculation, which isn't borne out by any reasonable interpretation of the facts".

The barrister said that Mr Marques has been told the basis for the decision.

He said that the Minister did not ask for the DPP's reasons to not prosecute Mr Marques in this jurisdiction. The Minister "believed it was inappropriate to ask for the DPP's reasons," Mr McGrath added.

Ms Justice Donnelly said that she would notify the parties when she is ready to give a judgement.


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