Saturday 24 February 2018

Man arrested in cannabis grow house claims he is victim of human trafficking

A CHINESE man facing drug charges after he was arrested in a cannabis growhouse in Dublin wants the High Court to free him pending trial because he says he is a victim of human trafficking.

The 36-year-old man, who cannot be named as he may be a victim of trafficking, was found by gardai in a growhouse in Henrietta Place on November 20 last year.

He has been in custody since then because he has no documents and no ability to raise money for bail, his counsel Feargal Kavanagh told the court yesterday.

Mr Kavanagh wants the court to  conduct an inquiry as to whether he should be released in accordance with the Constitution whereby the

State must show he is being lawfully held. He claims that because he is a victim of trafficking that his continued detention is re-victimising him in breach of his constitutional and human rights.

The State opposes the application and denies he is a victim of trafficking on a number of grounds, including that when he was found in the growhouse, he was free to come and go, had internet access and was in possession of an iPhone 4.
One of the photos on the phone showed him with his arm around a garda in Dublin on the day of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland, the State says.

Mr Kavanagh said it was not the case that the man was under duress from the growhouse operators but was from China-based human trafficking agents known as "snakeheads".

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan adjourned the application until next week to allow the man's counsel cross-exam a garda chief superintendent and a sergeant as to the basis for their view that the accused is not a victim of trafficking.

It was alleged the traffickers abducted the man, a peasant farmer's son, from his home in the Fu Jian province, in 2011, after his family borrowed around €20,000 from a money lender, with interest that had escalated.  He was told that unless he travelled abroad to pay back the debt "people would die"

He said in an affidavit he was brought to Hong Kong, along with several others and trafficked into Ireland.  It was "a terrifying and traumatic experience" involving a journey over several months via bus, boat and plane.

He was never allowed possession of his own travel documents and was always accompanied by a trafficker who told him failure to co-operate would result in severe harm for him and his family.

Every place they arrived, they would be concealed in a house and told to be quiet, not to contact anyone and were given only sparse amounts of bread, biscuits or dried food.  They were physically attacked for failing to comply with any instructions.

He arrived by plane in Ireland in 2011 and was met by two middle-aged, aggressive looking men, known only by nicknames.  He says he was sent to work in  Chinese restaurants and as he did not have any English, and could not read or write the language, he did not know where the restaurants were.

In November 2012, he was sent to work at a farm and the majority of his wages were deducted to pay off the family debt and where he was threatened by men with knives that he could not make phone calls or leave the house he was living in.  He was working for about two weeks in the growhouse before his arrest and it was only then he became aware the plants he was tending were cannabis.

Online Editors

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