Angelo's agony: Dutch prisoner 'too big for cell'

A prison officer locks a cell (generic image) The prisoner still has most of his sentence to serve

A Dutch prisoner described by his lawyer as a giant has gone to court over the size of his single cell, arguing that it is inhumanely small.

The prisoner, 2.07m tall (6ft 9in) and 230kg (36st), says he cannot properly sleep or use the toilet.

Prison officials have tried to relieve his discomfort by adding a a 2.15m plank and an extra mattress to his bed.

Named by his lawyer as Angelo MacD., he is asking to complete his two-year sentence for fraud under house arrest.

His lawyer, Bas Martens, told a court in The Hague that his client's conditions of detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

He insisted that MacD. was not trying to get out of serving his time.

"My client just wants to serve a comparable sentence without pain," Mr Martens told Radio Netherlands.

'Wedging and crouching'
A diagram of the cell (supplied by Bas Martens) MacD. barely has room to turn in his cell, sketched here by his lawyer

Speaking to the BBC News website, Mr Martens sought to convey the sheer size of MacD., whose picture was not available.

"He is 2.07m tall and a metre wide and a metre deep," he said.

"He is not obese. He is a giant. He even walks like a giant, like out of the comic books."

MacD. began his sentence on 29 September and is not due for release until 12 April 2012.

His cell in a prison in the south-western town of Krimpen aan de IJssel would probably be adequate for most prisoners but for him, the problems start in the doorway, where he must bow his head to pass through.

His bed, which is fixed to the wall, is 77cm wide and 1.96m long, according to a sketch provided by Mr Martens.

This means that his client must sleep on his side.

While the plank and extra mattress supplied by the prison authorities were meant to make him more comfortable, he now has to "sleep with one eye open in case he falls out of bed", Mr Martens said.

To take a shower, he must first wedge himself into the cubicle, then crouch down under the head.

So tiny and low is his toilet, he complains, that "visits" must be kept to the absolute minimum.

Other alleged problems included a lack of adequate space for family visits and suitable seating in the prison canteen.

Mr Martens pointed out that his client was unable to do prison work for similar reasons, despite this being a requirement of his sentence.

A court ruling on the case is expected early next month.

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