European court adviser sides against German McCann suspect

BERLIN (AP) — A legal adviser to Europe's top court issued an opinion Thursday that could make it easier for Germany to keep in prison a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who vanished from a Portuguese resort 13 years ago.

In the non-binding opinion, Advocate General Michal Bobek said that the European Court of Justice should rule that German prosecutors were within their rights to try Christian Brueckner for a separate case — the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal, even though he had been extradited from Italy to be tried for yet another alleged crime.

Brueckner's attorneys are appealing the rape conviction, arguing that since he was extradited on a warrant related to drug trafficking he should not have been tried for the rape.

Among other things, the German court said Italy had agreed for him to be tried for rape as well as part of the extradition proceedings.

McCann was 3 at the time of her 2007 disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.

German authorities in June said they had identified the 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the case and were investigating him on suspicion of murder.

They have said, however, that they do not currently have enough evidence to hold him in prison on that suspicion alone.

It was not immediately clear when the European Court of Justice would formally rule, but the Luxembourg-based tribunal tends in most cases to follow such opinions from legal advisers.

A German court would then review the official decision.

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