herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

'Legless' Libyan war vet avoids conviction over airport assault

Libyan business student Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy assaulted a staff member at Dublin Airport after drinking a glass of wine
Libyan business student Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy assaulted a staff member at Dublin Airport after drinking a glass of wine

A one-legged war veteran who was arrested at Dublin Airport after staff thought he was drunk has been spared a sentence and an assault conviction.

Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy, of Annaly Terrace, Ongar, Clonsilla, was maimed during conflict in his native Libya.

The 29-year-old business student pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breach of the peace, being intoxicated in public and obstruction and assault of an authorised officer at Terminal One last January 29.

He also admitted criminal damage inside a garda car and to a mattress in a cell at Ballymun Garda Station.

However, in April a judge gave him the chance to avoid a criminal record and a sentence after noting the "unusual circumstances" of his arrest.

Ellihidy returned to court yesterday after paying €260 for the damage caused in the garda station cell, and he had a receipt to show he had donated €400 to charity.

Judge Carol Anne Coolican noted that he had complied with an order made earlier by another judge and struck out the case.

Dublin District Court had heard evidence that the student began spitting when gardai were called and arrested him.

Things escalated after his arrest and he wrecked a mattress in a garda station cell.

Defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew said her client was very apologetic, but there were unusual circumstances to the incident.

He had lost a leg during the war to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

He later lost some fingers as a result of an Islamic State bomb blast, Ms Gildernew said.

On the day of his arrest, Ellihidy had packed his crutches in his baggage.

He drank one glass of wine that reacted badly with his medication, the solicitor said, and the airport staff thought he was intoxicated and offered him a wheelchair, which he declined.

The situation escalated and gardai were called.

Appalling

Ellihidy now had a scholarship from the Libyan government to study in Ireland.

Ms Gildernew said the airport staff assumed Ellihidy "was legless drunk as opposed to being actually legless".

The student, who had no previous convictions, was sorry for his actions, the court heard.

Judge John Brennan, who had heard the evidence during the hearing in April, described Ellihidy's behaviour as "purely appalling".

He added, however, that they were most unusual circumstances in which the accused was a veteran who had suffered badly through his patriotism.

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