Irishwoman fights to free husband from Greek jail

An Irishwoman fighting to free her husband from a Greek jail has secured the backing of Innocence Project lawyers to challenge his detention.

Julie Marku from Co Carlow said the three years since her husband Mark’s arrest for armed robbery had been a nightmare, but she was hoping to get him home to Ireland for Christmas.

Her hopes have been boosted by the involvement of the Innocence Project, the international organisation of lawyers who investigate suspected miscarriages of justice.

Top American DNA expert and Idaho Innocence Project founder Dr Greg Hampikian, whose evidence was key in overturning the murder conviction against American student Amanda Knox, is to be a witness for Mark Marku in his upcoming appeal and will discredit forensic evidence Greek police used against him.

Julie, nee O’Reilly, and Mark Marku, from Albania, met in Crete in 2007 while Julie, a childcare worker, was travelling around Greece for the summer. They married two years later and moved to Ireland, but Mr Marku returned to Greece several times in 2010 to work on construction jobs. In Sept 2010, he was arrested along with his brother, Andreas Marku, and five other Albanian men and was charged with carrying out a series of armed robberies. They were tried and convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison despite documentary evidence vouched for by government departments here that Mark was in Ireland when several of the robberies occurred.

His father-in-law, Bill O’Reilly, said: “From the day of Mark’s arrest on Sept 16, 2010, the case against him has been riddled with inconsistencies, irregularities and procedural shortcomings by both the Crete police and the prosecution.” Mr O’Reilly and his wife, Phyl, have spent their life savings on helping their daughter fight to get an appeal hearing.

Julie Marku said: “The past three years have been a living nightmare. We’ve had the appeal date moved back four times. Now that the appeal is confirmed for Dec 4, we are working to ensure all the evidence is in place and can’t be disregarded. We want to bring Mark home for Christmas.”

Barrister David Langwallner, director of the Irish Innocence Project, said a strong defence had been prepared for Mr Marku and he hoped for a fair trial. “Usually the Innocence Project only gets involved in a case after the final appeal has been heard but because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Mark’s conviction, we decided to work on the case.”


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