OVERCROWDED: Inmates, such as Troy, are often living in squalor and overcrowded conditions, with lasting impacts to their mental health.
OVERCROWDED: Inmates, such as Troy, are often living in squalor and overcrowded conditions, with lasting impacts to their mental health. AFP

High-level letter that could save Boyne man from prison revealed

Excerpts from a letter sent to Julie Bishop MP

December 15, 2016

Dear Ms. Bishop,

We the undersigned, (names provided) all Australian expats residing in Cebu, the Philippines, would like to urgently bring to your attention the plight of our fellow Australian expat, Mr. Troy Russell Birthisel who is currently detained in prison in Mactan, Cebu on charges of Illegal Recruitment involving Economic Sabotage - an indictable crime in the Philippines under Republic Act # 8042.

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Whilst we are aware that the Australian Government has no right to intervene in another sovereign nation's legal process, we are deeply concerned that the human rights of Mr. Birthisel, and indeed his right to a fair and speedy trial have been severely compromised due to the painfully slow legal process here.

Mr. Birthisel has been detained in sub-standard conditions in the B.J.M.P. prison located at Soong, Lapu Lapu City, Cebu since his arrest at Mactan Cebu International airport on October 22, 2013. He has never been formally interviewed by the police prior to being charged with the crime as outlined above, nor has he been granted bail. It is noted that under Filipino Law, bail can only be refused in the event of a capital crime, which quite clearly has not happened here.

It would be much appreciated if you could peruse it at your convenience, and familiarise yourself with the case against Mr. Birthisel.

Over the past three (3) years that Mr. Birthisel has been detained, he has had approximately twenty (20) court-appointed hearing dates, most of which have been cancelled at the last minute due to various reasons. These reasons include the unavailability of a presiding judge, the unavailability of, and "no show" of key prosecution witnesses at the scheduled hearing(s), and complete failure on the part of the prosecution to produce documented written evidence of any weight which would prove that a crime of any sort has been committed. This is quite clearly (even with the presumption of innocence that is a standard legal right in any country) a grave injustice that needs to be urgently and diligently pursued by your department at high level with the Filipino Government.

It is also noted that during the past three years of Mr. Birthisel's incarceration, he has had very little contact or assistance from the Australian Embassy in Manila, despite that office being fully aware of his plight. We must respectfully insist that you, as Foreign Minister and head of the Department of Foreign Affairs urgently contact the current Australian Ambassador to the Philippines in Manila, and address this matter at the highest level.

It is the enshrined right of every Australian citizen whilst travelling or residing abroad to be afforded protection and assistance from his country of origin. This core right is key to our survival in foreign countries, and we as Australian citizens should be able to rely on that basic premise. Unfortunately in this case, Mr. Birthisel has quite clearly been sadly let down and neglected.

It is with these facts that we humbly submit this request for your personal assistance and intervention in resolving this urgent issue.

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