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American DNA expert challenges evidence at Crete trial

Dr Greg Hampikian gives evidence at appeal of man convicted to 18 years

Appeal of Mark Marku, who says he was in Ireland for a number of the crimes he was given an 18 year sentence for, enters its third day at Iraklio courthouse in Crete

Mark Marku is taken out of court by prison officers (Photo: Julie Marku) Mark Marku is taken out of court by prison officers (Photo: Julie Marku) One of the United States' foremost forensic DNA experts told a court in Crete on Wednesday that the DNA sample used to convict an Albanian man to 18 years for armed robberies was inconclusive and potentially matched him as well as 250,000 Americans.

Dr Greg Hampikian, who set up the Idaho Innocence Project to challenge wrongful convictions, was giving evidence at the appeal trial of Mark Marku, which after numerous postponements got underway this week at Iraklio courthouse.

Hampikian, a professor at Boise State University in Idaho, is volunteering his services. 

In January 2012, after 16 months in custody, Marku and four other men were convicted of a litany of charges including seven armed robberies that took place in Crete in 2010. He received an 18-year jail sentence. He claims he was in Ireland for six of these crimes – his wife is Irish – and his defence say they have evidence to prove this.

They also point out that a report claiming to have found Mark's DNA on a pair of rubber gloves was used to convict Marku of one of the robberies, on a date hsays he can prove he was in Ireland. Of nearly 100 items tested, the search and seizure report for the glove is the only one that does not exist, so the location, date and time of their discovery cannot be confirmed.

On the second day of the appeal on Wednesday, Marku's defence lawyer, Leonidas Pegiadis, challenged the entire case against his client, which he says consists of unreliable eyewitness and DNA evidence. He argued that the evidence was not concrete enough to support an 18-year conviction.

Hampikian told the court that the DNA sample used to convict Marku had traces from three different people, which means means that different people could have worn the glove and, in the process, contaminated the sample. He said the evidence would not qualify as evidence for the FBI in an American trial. 

Reponding to Hampikian's evidence, the presiding judge pointed towards the police involved in the case, saying "Our FBI is Mr Vasilis and his guys".

In what was an acrimonious hearing, the presiding judge told Pediadis that he was entitled to ask only one question of Hampikian. After an argument between Pediadis, who maintained his right to question his witness for as long as necessary, and the judge, the latter left the courtroom arguing that Pediadis was in contempt of court.

After the altercation, Pediadis lodged an official complaint against the judge, requesting that he be replaced. When the court resumed on Thursday morning, a new presiding judge had been appointed.

However, the new judge announced that the trial would be postponed until June 6. Marku's wife, Julie, and her father, Bill O’Reilly, are still due to give evidence, as is David Langwallner, head of the Irish Innocence Project. They are expected to testify that Marku was in Ireland for some of the crimes he was convicted of. The court will also hear a report about the eyewitness testimony in the case prepared by Victoria Lawson of John Jay College in New York.

* For more information, visit the Justice for Mark and Andreas campaign website, Tumblr pageFacebook page or @FreeMarku on Twitter

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