A convicted forger is fighting extradition to Romania because the country's prison cells are too small.


In a landmark case, Danut Nitoi claims his human rights would be breached if he was forced a serve out a four-year sentence in a room measuring between about 6ft 6inches and 9ft 10 inches squared.

The 28-year-old has secured legal aid to fight his case through the Scottish courts after being detained a European Arrest Warrant in October.

Nitoi argues that the cell in an open prison in Romania would amount to a breach of Article 3 of the European Court of Human Rights, which outlaws "torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

If successful, Nitoi could severely hamper the ability of the UK to extradite or deport to Romania's overcrowded jails.

His case follows similar actions under the article that led the European Court of Human Rights to rule that Italian prisons were so overcrowded they breached the human rights of inmates.

That ruling, in 2013, led an English judge to hold up the extradition of a Mafia don, Domenico Rancadore, to Italy last year.

The High Court in London last month finally allowed the 65-year-old, who had been hiding in England, to be extradited to serve a seven-year sentence handed down in his absence more than two decades ago.

Nitoi, who had been living in Aberdeen, was granted legal aid to appeal against his extradition at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday.

He had been ordered to be extradited late last year at Edinburgh Sheriff Court despite a letter from the Romanian prison authorities saying he would be held in a cell of "between two metres squared and three metres squared including bed and furniture".

Advocate Stephen Govier, for Nitoi, said it wasn't clear how big the cell would be. He said: "Is it two metres squared or is it three? Is two meters (6f 6inches) acceptable? Is three (9ft 10inches)?" Referring to the Romanian letter, he added: "It does not give a clear answer."

There is no internationally accepted minimum size of cell.

In Scotland, a single cell is a minimum of about 22ft 11 inches squared, with a prisoner in a shared cell having at least 13ft 1 inches squared, not including toilet.

Prisons, however, have also suffered severe overcrowding in recent years.

The extradition appeal, however, heard that Scottish conditions were "neither here nor there" in respect of Nitoi's case.

The Italian ruling was made on the basis of general overcrowding rather than specific size of cells.

Italy in 2013 had 61,500 people in jails built for under 48,000.

David Dickson, advocate depute, of the Crown Office's International Co-operation Unit, stressed the European Human Rights Convention and not not-existent supranational jail standards were the test for extradition.

He said: "We are in a grey area as to whether two to three metres squared in itself is an automatic breach and an assurance [from the Romanian authorities] is required."

Mr Govier and colleagues had made four unsuccessful bids for legal aid to pursue Nitoi's case. The High Court of Justiciary finally granted funding. The court will now hear Nitoi's arguments in April.

Nitoi was convicted in his absence in Romania and jailed for four years.

At least two Romanians have been successfully extradited from Scotland over the last four years, both for very serious offences.