The family and friends of a Leeds man who was finally freed after a five-month Greek jail nightmare today expressed their “huge relief” at the end of his ordeal – and thanked everyone who had supported him through it.
Fran Prenga, 34, from Otley, had been held by Greek authorities since May 8, initially without charge, in connection with a series of armed robberies in the country in 2004 and 2005.
On Monday, he was finally found innocent of all the charges. He had always pleaded his innocence, and wife Louise had been battling tirelessly to clear his name. She had travelled to Athens with baby daughter Maria for his trial, which was finally held after many weeks of delays.
A statement on behalf of the family said: “After over five months of being wrongfully held, Francesco Prenga will finally walk free from Amfissa Prison having being found not guilty of any involvement in any of the 72 armed robberies, or indeed the weapons possession.
“This is a huge relief for Louise and their young daughter Maria, who have been stuck in a living nightmare since Fran’s arrest. Fran will now be spending time with his family before returning back to Otley.
“Louise would like to thank all their friends, family and indeed Fran’s customers and work associates, who have helped, supported, wrote letters of comfort and assisted her and Maria through this nightmare. Our thanks also go to Greg Mulholland MP for his support.”
Mr Prenga was initially arrested in May 2012 and charged with 72 counts of armed robbery and one count of possessing a weapon without a licence, between 2004 and 2005.
He had been in Rhodes to invest in a family business and had attended the local police station to sign off the relevant documentation when he was arrested.
After several weeks without any information from the Greek authorities, he was eventually informed that he had been tried and found guilty of possession of an unlicensed weapon in his absence.
Whilst detained in Amfissa Prison, Mr Prenga was forced to remain in a cell with up to 40 other prisoners and in conditions not conforming to the minimum recommended standards by the United Nations.
Mr Mulholland, who supported the family through the ordeal, said: “I am delighted that justice has finally been done and that Fran can now return home to Otley a free man.”