Government petitions Philippines over Irish nurse’s drugs case

Eanna O’Cochlain faces 12 years in jail for possession of a small amount of cannabis

Irish nurse Eanna O’Cochlain, 57, from Cork, who is facing 12 years prison in the Philippines for a minor cannabis possession charge he denies, is appealing to the Irish public and government to help him.

 

The Government has asked the Filipino authorities to expedite the court case of an Irish man facing 12 years in jail for possession of a small amount of cannabis.

Eanna O’Cochlain, a nurse from Cork, was arrested in Laoag International Airport in the Philippines in July 2013 when he was visiting the country with his Filipina wife. Security staff claimed they found about .38 grams of cannabis in his cigarette box.

Mr O’Cochlain (57) says it was planted there in attempt to extort money from him and that he was arrested when he refused to pay. He was later sentenced to 12 years in prison but was released on bail pending appeal.

The appeal court upheld the sentence and he is now taking his case to the Supreme Court, a process that he believes could take years.

Mr O’Cochlain is currently in hiding as he awaits his court date as he fears he could be targeted by anti-drug vigilantes who have killed thousands in the country since its president, Rodrigo Duterte, effectively sanctioned the extra-judicial murder of drug dealers.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney wrote to Mr O’Cochlain on Friday outlining the diplomatic efforts being undertaken on his behalf but warned that the Government was “limited” in what it could do.

‘Speedy resolution’

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it cannot 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.”

Mr Coveney told Mr O’Cochlain that he pressed his case with the Filipino foreign minister at the UN in New York earlier this month.

“I asked for the minister’s assistance in bringing this matter to a speedy resolution. We had a good conversation and he has agreed to follow up.”

Mr Coveney said he has also asked Ireland’s ambassador to the Philippines, Geoffrey Keating, to lobby for the speedy progression of the case on the grounds that Mr O’Cochlain is in poor health.

The department said the administrator of the Supreme Court has acknowledged the concerns of the Irish Government. A spokesman said that Mr O’Cochlain’s attorneys “believe they have made a good case to argue that there is reasonable doubt in relation to his conviction”.