Tuesday 20 March 2018

‘I refused to pay their corruption money’: Cork man Eanna Ó Cochláin appeals to Irish people for help to turn over drug charge in Philippines

Eanna and his wife
Eanna and his wife
Freya Drohan

Freya Drohan

Eanna Ó Cochláin has spoken of his turmoil being ‘trapped’ in the Philippines after he was arrested for alleged possession of cannabis.

The 55-year-old recalled his ordeal to RTE Radio One host Brendan O’Connor.

In July 2013, the Corkonian was convicted of smuggling 0.38 grams of cannabis through Laoag International Airport.

The psychiatric nurse insists that the drug was planted on him by corrupt police officials.

“When I got to the airport, things seemed different. All the official were staring at me,” he recalled. “I was searched three times unlike everyone else. I had Old Holborn rolled cigarettes - hand rolled tobacco - with me, the guards were not familiar with it.”

Ó Cochláin was subsequently arrested and brought to the local police station where he was held for four hours. It is here he believes that his rollie cigarettes were switched to real marijuana joints.

Eanna and his wife
Eanna and his wife

The married father believes that he was targeted because officials knew that both he and his family based in Cork had money.

“About two days later I was told if you don't pay up you will be found guilty. They were threatening to give me 25 years if I did not pay them around €7-10,000. I refused to pay their corruption money, because the problem is they can still lock me up even if I do pay.”

“I was brought up in an idealistic way in Ireland and I want to stick to my grounds,” he told host O’Connor. “If I pay, it’ll make every Irish citizen a target.”

Ó Cochláin pointed out that Philippines is the third most corrupt country in the world, according to the United Nations.

He was put through a trial in regional courts, where he says the video evidence which proved his innocence was ignored.

“I knew if I paid that, they’d still want more money and they’d still put you in jail. I also learned that my attorney had contacted my wife in London and asked her to pay 200,000 peso (around €4,000) and told her I’d be found not guilty if she did. She paid it, and I was still found guilty,” he said.

Eanna told O’Connor that corruption is well documented in Philippines. Over 65 percent of cases are resolved by payoffs, and he believes he will never get justice there through the legal system.

“It’s got too far, I've been here two years, the amount of money that would be in the appeals court, I couldn't afford it. We’re talking €20,000 because the higher up in the courts it goes, the higher the pay off..that’s how it goes here.”

“I’m waiting to get help from the Irish government, the Irish government needs to demand my appeal be resolved and a decision made.

“I have 27 years experience as a nurse, it’s ludicrous to think someone with six years education would step on an international flight with 0.38 grams of marijuana rolled up in joints. Outrageous.”

Eanna is urging the Irish people to sign his petition and put pressure on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to do something to get him home.

“I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’m 55 years old, there’s no way I’d survive prison. They’ve basically sentenced me to death for 0.38g of marijuana which they planted on me.”

“I’m personally in despair. I’ve missed my daughter’s music performances, the funerals of my mother, my brother, my sister and my best friend. I’ve no one backing me and I’ve no one with me as my poor wife is still in London.”

Visit www.bringeannahome.com or facebook.com/bringeannahome for more information about the case and the online petition.

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