The Irish government has asked Philippine authorities for a “speedy resolution” in the case of a man facing 12 years in jail for a tiny amount of cannabis.
Eanna O’Cochlain has consistently denied the charges and is now taking his case to the Supreme Court after having failed at the court of appeals.
The 57-year-old nurse from County Cork was was arrested at Laoag Airport in July 2013 when he was visiting the country with his Filipina wife Jho. Security staff claimed they found about .38 grams of cannabis in a cigarette packet.
Mr O’Cochlain says he was immediately asked for a bribe to make the issue “go away” but refused to pay — a decision that has cost him the past four years of his life.
Mr O’Cochlain, who is out on bail pending his final appeal, is currently in hiding as he fears he could be targeted by anti-drug vigilantes or individuals involved in his case.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney Simon Coveney, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, has written to Mr O’Cochlain outlining the diplomatic efforts being undertaken on his behalf.
Eanna O’Cochlain case raised at UN
However, he warned that the government was “limited” in what it could do.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Irish Times that it could not interfere in another country’s court process “just as no foreign government can interfere in our judicial system”.
He added: “Also, we cannot provide legal advice or act on any citizen’s behalf in legal proceedings. The handling of Mr O’Cochlain’s defence in court or the management of his appeal arguments are matters for him and his legal representatives.”
However, Mr Coveney told Mr O’Cochlain that he had pressed his case with the Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano at the UN in New York last month.
“I asked for the minister’s assistance in bringing this matter to a speedy resolution,” he said. “We had a good conversation and he has agreed to follow up.”
Mr Coveney said he had also asked the Irish ambassador Geoffrey Keating to lobby for speedy progress on the grounds that Mr O’Cochlain was in poor health.