HC Deb 06 July 1871 vol 207 cc1220-1

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If his attention has been directed to the case of Mr. Joseph Williams, who having been imprisoned for some time by the Turkish Government, was sent out of the country without trial, or without having had an opportunity of defending himself against the charge alleged against him, and who in consequence of his imprisonment has sustained heavy pecuniary losses?


Sir, Mr. Williams was arrested in March, 1870, at Galata, on a charge of killing a watchman, and sentenced by the local Court to 15 years' imprisonment for manslaughter. The watchman, who survived the attack for a time, stated that, hearing a cry for help, he proceeded towards the defendant, who shot him without provocation. Mr. Williams, on the other hand, declared that the watchman tried to rob him, and that he was ignorant at the time of his official character. The sentence had to be confirmed by the High Court of Justice, which did not try the case until the following February. In the interim, Williams, whose health was suffering, was placed in charge of the British authorities. The sentence was confirmed; but although, from his being a British subject, there were circumstances attending the trial which made it technically invalid, it cannot be said that he was not tried, or that his trial would not have been quite fair in the case of a Turkish subject. Her Majesty's Consul thought it advisable to accept an offer made soon after by the Turkish authorities to release him if he would leave the country at once. The delay in the proceedings was all in his favour, owing to the strong public feeling against him at the time, and his claim for compensation could not properly be raised against the Turkish Government. His affairs were carefully arranged during his confinement by Her Majesty's Consulate, and a balance remitted to him.