The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has demanded to be freed from jail on a technicality over his conviction for raping a 72-year-old woman.
Christian Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher appeared before a panel of judges at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Thursday.
Fulscher argued that it was ‘unconstitutional’ that Brueckner had been tried for the brutal sex attack Praia da Luz in 2005 – two years before Madeleine vanished from the same resort in May 2007 – because it breached international law.
The ECJ will publish their ‘opinion’ in three weeks’ time, on 6th August. Their final judgement, which usually follows the opinion and is binding on courts across the EU, will be delivered soon afterwards.
Fulscher argued that the 43-year-old should not have been put on trial for the rape because this charge was not part European Arrest Warrants issued to extradite him from Portugal to Germany in 2017 and from Italy to Germany in 2018.
EU law states that people extradited on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant can only be prosecuted for crimes listed in the document.
Brueckner is currently imprisoned in Kiel in Northern Germany for drugs offences.
The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has demanded to be freed from jail in an appeal against his conviction for raping a 72-year-old woman
Lawyers for the German government argued that Brueckner had forfeited his ‘protection’ against prosecution by flouting the rules and leaving the country.
Felix Halabi told the court: ‘He flouted the rules.
‘Despite the requirement to stay in the national territory [Germany] he did not stay, he left for Italy.
‘In the case we are looking at the suspect made the most of open European borders.
‘And now he wants us to read the law in such a way that it is turned on its head and provides him with an advantage in court.
‘But in our view this cannot be the correct interpretation.’
He added: ‘Freedom of movement is a great benefit to people all over Europe.
Christian Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher appeared before a panel of judges at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg
‘Their freedom to travel freely without being violently robbed.
‘In order to protect these freedoms there should be successful prosecutions.
‘The European Arrest Warrant is a great achievement for Europe to make prosecutions much easier.’
Brueckner was extradited from Portugal to Germany in 2017 where he was jailed for sex offences against children.
He was released in August 2018 but was put under ‘surveillance’ and required to meet with a probation officer once a month.
But he fled the country – first to the Netherlands and then on to Italy – and was arrested in Milan and extradited back to Germany and jailed for drug offences dating back to 2011.
His lawyer Fulscher told the court he had simply ‘gone on holiday’ and that there had been no requirement for him to inform the authorities he was leaving the country.
He said: ‘In the framework of the supervision order he was not required to remain on German territory.
Brueckner is currently serving a 21-month sentence for drug trafficking in Kiel prison in Northern Germany and is shortly set to start the sentence for the rape conviction
‘He had to report to a probation officer once a month.
‘There was nothing further to limit his freedom.
‘He wanted to go on holiday. This was communicated to his probation officer.
‘There was no reason to oppose it and he left Germany to go on holiday.’
While serving the 21-month sentence for drugs Bruckner was convicted of the rape last year and sentenced to seven years.
But this conviction has been challenged in the German courts because the charges were not listed in either European Arrest Warrants and the ECJ must decide whether it stands or not.
This is the technical issue that the panel of five judges, chaired by Greek judge Michail Vilaras, will rule on.
Brueckner’s current jail term will expire in January next year.
Last month German police named the serial sex offender as their prime suspect in the kidnap and murder of three-year-old Madeleine who vanished on May 3rd 2007 while on holiday in Praia da Luz with parents Kate and Gerry McCann.
Mobile phone data showed Brueckner was in Praia da Luz when the little girl – who was just days away from turning four – was taken.
German investigators also allege that records show he received a 30-minute phone call on the night of the crime.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation, has told the McCanns they have concrete evidence that Madeleine is dead, in the biggest break-through in the 13-year-old case
Detectives in northern Germany have spent six weeks making desperate appeals for information to link Brueckner to the youngster’s abduction but have not so far secured the vital evidence they need.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation, has told the McCanns they have concrete evidence that Madeleine is dead, in the biggest break-through in the 13-year-old case.
He said he hoped to be able to charge Brueckner within the next two months – but has added that their investigation will not drag on forever.
Wolters has said the outcome of the ECJ hearing could result in Brueckner’s rape conviction being quashed.
Brueckner, who was not in court today, remains in prison and will be informed about the court’s decision in the coming weeks.
His lawyer refused to speak about Thursday’s hearing or the Madeleine McCann case when he left the court.
Fulscher told MailOnline: ‘I have no comment for the British press.’
The latest development comes after it emerged German police are reportedly ‘close to identifying’ the mystery caller who Brueckner spoke to on the night Madeleine disappeared.
Officers are said to be following up 16 leads from members of the public after an appeal on a German TV show – similar to CrimeWatch – according to the show’s presenter Rudi Cerne.
According to the presenter, police have described one of the tips as ‘useful’. It is apparently in the region of Bavaria, where Brueckner once lived.
But there is still no sign of conclusive evidence Mr Cerne, who presents crime show Aktenzeichen XY, said.
Earlier this week, MailOnline revealed Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann would be hugely ‘disappointed but not totally surprised’ if the German investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance is dropped due to lack of evidence.
Earlier this week, MailOnline revealed Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann would be hugely ‘disappointed but not totally surprised’ if the German investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance is dropped due to lack of evidence. Pictured: The couple in 2007 shortly after Madeleine’s disappearance
German prosecutor Wolters claimed to have told the McCanns they had concrete evidence that Madeleine was dead but added the investigation will not go on forever.
A friend of the McCanns told MailOnline: ‘It looks like the latest suspect could be ruled out because there is not sufficient evidence to charge him which would be a huge embarrassment to the German authorities and very disappointing but not a total surprise to Kate and Gerry.
‘It had initially appeared such a vital and solid lead, and the breakthrough they had been dreaming of, but there seems to be a lack of any real evidence.
‘Kate and Gerry have had their hopes raised and dashed so many times before. All they want is answers and to find out what happened to their daughter after more than 13 years.’
‘It is a very frustrating and difficult time for them.’