|German paedophile Christian Brueckner is suspected of murdering Madeleine McCann (Image: CARABINIERI HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)|
The prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case this morning demanded to be freed from jail in an appeal against a conviction for the horrific rape of a 72-year-old woman.
Christian Brueckner's lawyers appeared before a panel of five judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.
They insisted that Brueckner’s seven-year sentence for brutally attacking an American pensioner in Praia da Luz in 2005 should now be overturned.
The convicted paedophile's defence team argued that it was a breach of international law to put him on trial for rape.
They claim because this was not the crime he was extradited for from Portugal in June 2017 he should be freed.
Representatives of the Irish and German governments listened in to the case held in the main ECJ courthouse via video conference.
It is a technical issue and the judges - led by President Michail Vilaras - will release their verdict in the coming weeks.
Last month 43-year-old Brueckner was named as the prime suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Maddie from Praia da Luz in 2007.
Mobile phone data showed he was in the Portuguese village at the time she vanished and had been on a 30-minute phone call, German investigators allege.
When he was held German police used a European Arrest Warrant to extradite Brueckner back to Germany over child molestation charges.
But his defence say it was a legal requirement to have the explicit consent of Portugal for Brueckner to be extradited for one crime, and later tried for another.
According to the Law on International Mutual Assistance: “People extradited by an EU Member State on the basis of a European arrest warrant may not be prosecuted, convicted or subjected to a detention order for an act committed before surrender other than that which is the basis of the surrender.”
Germany is treating the Maddie case as a murder investigation, and the authorities there have said they have evidence that the missing girl is dead.
Chief public prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation, says the outcome of the ECJ hearing could result in Bruckner’s rape conviction being quashed.
He said: “The defence seeks to have the rape conviction overturned by the Federal Court of Justice – Germany’s supreme court.
“The defence can achieve this if the ECJ considers Portugal's consent to have been necessary.”
The prosecutor has insisted that Brueckner, also eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of a 21-month sentence for drug trafficking, will not be freed from prison if he wins the case.
Brueckner, who will not appear in court today, will be informed of the decision in his jail cell in Kiel, northern Germany.
Mr Wolters said this week that German investigators hope to wrap up the case “within months”.
Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was just days away from turning four when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment at the Ocean Club complex on the night of May 3, 2007.
Her parents, Kate and Gerry, left her and her 18-month-old twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, sleeping alone while they had dinner with friends at a tapas restaurant nearby.
Brueckner was a drifter living in a VW camper van at the time, according to police.
Police and firefighters have this month searched a number of abandoned wells in Vila do Bispo, about 10 miles from Praia da Luz, but found no trace of Maddie.
Mr Wolters revealed his office was not told Portuguese police were planning to search the wells near Brueckner's old seaside haunt.
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