Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
James Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
Question 110: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the assistance that has been offered to a person (details supplied) in County Longford who was held in legal limbo abroad for years and only gained freedom earlier this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9520/12]
Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
The Irish citizen referred to by the Deputy was arrested in Guatemala in May 2006. Consular assistance was provided by the Department through the Embassy of Ireland in Mexico and with the assistance also of the Honorary Consul in Guatemala. The case was also raised at Ministerial level with the Guatemalan Governments, including by letter of May 2010. However, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, my Department is unable to interfere in the judicial processes of other countries.
The person named by the Deputy was tried by a Guatemalan court in September 2006 and sentenced to four years imprisonment. He appealed the decision and this led to a new trial being ordered. Following a number of appeals and counter-appeals he was cleared of all charges and released on 22 February 2011. Officials from Embassy Mexico attended his trials on several occasions and provided ongoing consular assistance during his imprisonment.
On release, the Embassy and Honorary Consul provided further consular assistance in relation to regularising his visa position. They also arranged for his subsistence needs and for his return to Ireland. The Irish citizen signed an undertaking to repay this amount. The Embassy arranged for him to be met on return to Ireland by an official from the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas in order to assist with his accommodation and welfare needs.
I understand that the person named by the Deputy is currently pursuing a legal case against the Guatemalan authorities in respect of his ordeal.