DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s High Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the extradition to the United States of a man the Federal Bureau of Investigation has described as the world’s biggest facilitator of child pornography.
The U.S. Attorney General in 2013 asked Ireland to extradite Eric Marques to face four charges of advertising and distributing child pornography as owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting.
Marques is accused of using encryption technology to offer an anonymous hosting service for websites with a total of more than 1 million pornographic pictures, including images of rape and torture of pre-pubescent children, an FBI agent told an earlier hearing.
The agent described Marques as “the largest facilitator of child pornography on the planet”.
Lawyers for Marques, who has been in custody since his arrest in August 2013, told the court in December he would plead guilty to charges if they were brought against him in Ireland. But Ireland’s director of public prosecutions told the court it did not intend to bring proceedings against him.
Marques’ lawyers then tried to block the extradition because their client suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, saying he may not receive adequate medical care in U.S detention. They also cited the risk of overcrowding and sexual assault.
Justice Aideen Donnelly on Wednesday dismissed the concerns.
“The court has determined that extradition to the USA for the purpose of trial on these alleged offences would not amount to a violation of his constitutional or Convention rights,” Justice Aideen Donnelly told the court.
“In the circumstances the court shall make an order committing Mr Marques to a prison, there to await the order of the Minister for his extradition.”
He should not be surrendered, however, until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted, she said.
Marques, who holds both Irish and U.S. citizenship, lived in New York until the age of five with his Brazilian father and Irish mother. Now 30 years old, he has lived in Ireland since then.
He told an earlier hearing that he earned substantial income from a web hosting business that he operated from an apartment on a Georgian square in central Dublin.
The court heard that if he is surrendered to the United States and then convicted, Marque could face spending the remainder of his natural life in prison, since the four charges could result in a sentence totalling 100 years.
Writing by Conor Humphries, editing by Larry King