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‘Helpless’ family say man arrested over armed robberies innocent
The wife of a British citizen, who spent his daughter’s first birthday in a Greek jail, says her family is living a “nightmare” as they try to secure his release.
Louise Prenga says her husband, Fran, has been wrongly imprisoned after a family holiday to the island of Rhodes earlier this month turned into a horror story.
Now she feels “completely helpless” as the couple’s daughter, Maria, celebrated her first birthday yestereday, while her father is locked up in a cell as family and friends anxiously try to get him free.
Mr Prenga, 34, was arrested and imprisoned by Greek authorities after attending a police station to fill in some legal documents, relating to a restaurant business he was investing in with some of his family.
He was told that police had been looking for him for four years in relation to 72 counts of armed robbery and one count of possessing a weapon without a licence in Athens, between 2004 and 2005.
But Mrs Prenga, 38, says her husband was in Rhodes, not Athens, at the time and has evidence to prove it and his innocence.
“It’s like a living nightmare. You don't believe it is happening to you – it’s like a story you read about,” said Mrs Prenga, 34, of Duncan Close, Otley.
“I'm completely frustrated and angry at the system over here as everything is taking so long. We've had very bad luck with lawyers and have been ripped off, but hopefully now we have the right lawyers to do their job properly and can only trust in them and hope Fran can get home soon.”
The family claim they have witness statements from employers who he worked for during this time, statements from his landlords whose houses he lived in, tax records, marriage certificates, birth certificates, his passports, all proving Mr Prenga is not the person the Greeks are looking for, but the authorities are refusing to release him.
Mr Prenga, has not been questioned or formally interviewed by the police and has been held in a cell with 35 other prisoners with no blankets, no food, no clothes. despite attempts to take them to him, and has since been transported to Athens to a holding cell to await appearance in front of the district attorney, according to the family, who also say no details or evidence linking him to the alleged crimes have been offered.
Mrs Prenga, who works for Leeds Federated Housing, says her husband, who was arrested on May 7, is being faced with appalling conditions in jail, three hours outside Athens and has seen his health deteriorate since he was detained.
“Fran’s physical condition has deteriorated and he's now fighting infections from the horrendous unhygienic conditions in which he is being kept,” she said.
“I feel completely helpless that my husband is hours away from me and his one-year-old daughter.
“The best we can hope is that he can get back in a matter of weeks and not months.
“The not knowing how long it'll take is the hardest, it could be anytime but we hope it's going to be soon.”
Mr Prenga became a British citizen in 2008 and runs his own successful business installing bathrooms and taking care of general plumbing duties.
He met his wife, while she was on holiday in Rhodes and the couple married in Mr Prenga’s native Albania in 2005.
Mrs Prenga claims she has so far received little help from the British Embassy and Foreign Office in trying to secure his release, and has turned to Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland for help.
Mr Mulholland says he written to William Hague in an effort to help.
“The arrest and detention of Fran Prenga has been a shock to his family, friends and those who know him,” he said.
“The lack of support he and his family have received from the British Embassy in Greece has been extremely concerning, especially considering the conditions he is being kept in.
“This is clearly unacceptable and I have written to the British Ambassador in Greece and to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, expressing my concerns about the treatment of Fran and urging them to offer him and his family all the support possible.”