A Cork man has launched a campaign to help his brother, who has been trapped in the Philippines for almost two years while appealing against a 12-year jail sentence for what his family believes was a trumped-up drugs charge.
Pat Coghlan yesterday pleaded for assistance, highlighting the plight of his brother, Eanna Ó Cochláin, who was convicted in the Philippines in 2013 of possession of 0.3824g — a third of a gram — of marijuana at a Filipino airport.
“Eanna’s form is up and down,” Mr Coghlan said last night. “He’s angry but he’s coping. To be honest I don’t know how he is keeping it together.
“Going public about this has its risks but Eanna, and I agree with him, thinks it’s worth it as this stage. His life is vanishing in front of him.
“I don’t know what result this will have, but we live in hope.”
Mr Ó Cochláin, 55, a nurse who lives and works in London with his Filipino wife Jho and their daughter Caoimhe, both of whom are Irish citizens, travelled to the Philipines with Jho in the summer of 2013 following her father’s death.
On July 14, 2013, the couple went to Laoag International Airport in Laoag City, capital of the Ilocos Norte province in the Philippines, to board a Cebu Pacific flight to Manila — the first leg of their journey back to London.
They passed through two security checks without incident but, on the final inspection stage, the airport’s aviation security command (ASC) searched Mr Ó Cochláin’s luggage.
Police spokesman Supt Jeffrey Gorospe said the ASC found two sticks of dried marijuana leaves inside a Marlboro cigarette pack.
Pat Coghlan said that his brother strenuously denies any knowledge of the drugs.
“My brother worked in 22 countries all over the world. He worked as a nurse in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. He is so experienced at passing in and out of airports. He’s not a fool,” he said.
“And he wants the joints to be subject to DNA tests to prove they’re not his, but he can’t get that done.”
Mr Ó Cochláin was arrested and handed over to the Laoag City police’s anti-illegal drugs special operations task unit, and spent five days in jail before he was charged with violating the country’s comprehensive dangerous drugs act. He surrendered his passport and was released on bail.
On November 22, 2013, he was handed a 12-year prison sentence and his passport was confiscated.
However, concerns emerged over the chain of evidence as the legal case unfolded, and Mr Ó Cochláin was released again on continuing bail pending an appeal.
He has moved to Manila where he is trying to survive in rented accommodation. His legal team launched a final appeal last November and the outcome is awaited.
Pat Coghlan said it has been an extremely difficult time for the family as the legal case drags on.
“Our mother, Josephine, died last November aged 93, our brother Colm died a few weeks later, and our sister, Deirdre, died last April, and Eanna couldn’t attend any of the funerals,” he said.
“Eanna was really affected by our mother’s death — that hurt him. He is the youngest; we joke with him that he’s a mammy’s boy.”
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune has taken an interest in the case, and the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is following the case.
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Appealing for people to help him launch a website to promote the ‘Bring Eanna Home’ campaign, he can be contacted on email@example.com.
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