The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is demanding to be freed from jail where he is currently serving time for raping a woman, 72.

Christian Brueckner, 43, has launched an appeal at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), claiming that his current sentence should be overturned as it was not the crime he was extradited from Portugal for.

Instead, German police had used a European Arrest Warrant to bring him back to Germany over child molestation charges. His lawyers now claim it would have been a legal requirement for Portugal to give its consent for him to be extradited for one crime but then convicted of another.

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The law on International Mutual Assistance states: ‘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.’

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Brueckner was given a seven-year sentence in 2017 after brutally attacking an American woman in Praia da Luz, 12 years earlier. It is the same Portugese district where Madeleine, then three, went missing in 2007.

The German national was named as the prime suspect earlier this year after mobile phone data showed he was in the area at the time that she vanished. He was previously investigated by police officers hunting for Madeleine, but ruled out in 2008.

Authorities say he lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he worked casual jobs in the gastronomy business. He also funded his lifestyle by committing crimes, including thefts in hotel complexes and apartments, as well as drug dealing.

Chief public prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation, has said the outcome of the ECJ hearing could mean that Brueckner’s rape conviction is thrown out.

However, he insisted that the suspect, who is also eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of a 21-month sentence for drug trafficking, will not be released from prison if he wins.

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.’

German investigators have repeatedly said that they are treating Madeleine’s disappearance as a murder investigation. They claim to have ‘concrete evidence’ that she was killed after vanishing from her parent’s apartment.

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