Alleged US fugitive claims he is being tortured in Scottish prison

·3-min read

A man who has repeatedly denied being a wanted fugitive claims he is being tortured in prison and has been punched in the face by officers.

The 35-year-old insists his name is Arthur Knight, but US prosecutors believe he is Nicholas Rossi, a man wanted for a series of sexual assaults and two rape charges in the state of Utah.

The man appeared by videolink from HMP Edinburgh at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday, in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen mask.

His wife sat in court watching the latest stage of her husband’s extradition battle.

As court proceedings began, the accused was seen coughing and crying on screen.

Defence counsel John Brannigan, speaking for lawyer David Kinloch, who is representing the man, said he had been instructed by the defendant to seek bail.

Mr Brannigan asked for an extension of proceedings until November for “medical reports, a psychological report, reports into prison conditions and the prison service in America”, adding: “Mr Knight wants all the reports available to him.”

The man was heard on screen repeatedly saying: “I need to go to hospital.”

He added: “I have had a heart attack and three TAIs… sorry, TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks).”

The suspect, becoming increasingly agitated on screen, claimed officers in the prison turned off his oxygen supply outside his cell, adding: “This is a 999 emergency.”

In response to the request for an extension of proceedings, fiscal depute Clare Kennedy told the court: “The Crown’s position is that we are keen to have this dealt with as expeditiously as possible.”

She said waiting until November would mean the full extradition hearing would be “a while away”.

At this point the accused launched into another speech, saying: “I’ve 85% lung scarring and I need to go to hospital. I’m dying.

“I’m getting no medical attention at all and I need to go to hospital.

“I’m suffering in the Scottish Prison Service here in Edinburgh, I’m dying and nothing is being done.”

He alleged that a prison officer punched him in the face, adding: “I’m being tortured. My wife knows and she’s seen it.

“My mental health is deteriorating and I’m hallucinating. I’m seeing things that I’ve never seen before.”

The accused asked Sheriff Chris Dickson, overseeing the hearing, to consider granting him bail, adding: “I’m not being afforded basic human rights and I’m at risk of death.”

Mr Dickson instructed the court the man can make a bail application to the Sheriff Appeal Court.

Nicholas Rossi court case
The defendant leaving court after a hearing in July (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He said he was not prepared to wait until November for proceedings to continue, adding: “I don’t want Mr Knight to be in custody any longer than he needs to be.”

Mr Dickson confirmed the next motion hearing to be set for about three weeks’ time to “see where we are at”.

The court heard that the question of the man’s identity will be addressed at the full extradition hearing.

But Mr Dickson has instructed lawyers to see if they could deal with the issue in evidence to avoid the man being held in custody.

The man is said to have faked his own death and fled to Scotland to evade sexual assault charges.

Prosecutors in Utah have accused him of raping a 21-year-old in 2008, and he is also alleged to have attacked women elsewhere in the US.

He insists he is not Mr Rossi and it is a case of mistaken identity, claiming he has never been to America.

He was remanded in custody and will next appear in court on September 15.