Barbara is pushing to secure the release of imprisoned Manchester United fan, Michael Burk.
Mr Burk, from Little Hulton is one of four fans currently imprisoned in Italy. The four were arrested in December 2007 after being caught up in violent clashes before a Champions League game between Manchester United and Roma.
Mr Burk was sentenced to two years and five months in prison in Italy of which he has now served three months. At his trial he was charged with and found guilty of violent behaviour and resisting arrest. Mr Burk denies being involved with the violence and he claims that he and other fans were beaten by Italian police during the clashes.
“I have been working with ministers and senior officials in Westminster and in Italy since I knew the facts about Mr Burk’s trial. I am very concerned about the treatment of Mr Burk and the other fans. It has become clear to me that the men were unfairly represented during their trial as they didn’t understand a word of the proceedings. During the first hearing Mr Burk did not even know what the charges against him were.”
“The court should have provided an English speaking lawyer or a translator and there was a serious lack of adequate language translation throughout the process. The solicitor appointed by the court was not even interested in what the defendants were saying and he seems to have advised them badly. This resulted in a short trial process being used which is usually reserved for those defendants that have admitted guilt. Mr Burk and the other fans have never been involved in any violence and all say they are innocent of these charges.”
“I am alarmed by what happened and I want to see Mr Burk’s case investigated. It seems there has been a miscarriage of justice and if there has, I would like to see Mr Burk’s conviction overturned. I would like to see him returned to his family as soon as possible as they have all suffered distress since his arrest.”
Michael Burk’s appeal hearing is scheduled for the 2nd May 2008. In April, Manchester United are due to play Roma once again. Besides wanting to see her constituent freed on appeal, Barbara Keeley is keen that events like those of December do not happen to football fans again. Barbara hopes that by raising the profile of Michael Burk’s case, the freedom of Michael and of the other fans can be secured.