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Jailed mother hopes for return home
A DUBLIN North West mother of two currently in an Ecuador prison on drug offences is hoping to be transferred to Ireland to finish the remainder of her sentence. Roisin Zoe Savage was jailed for eight years in 2003 when two-and-a-half kilograms of cocaine were found in her luggage as she attempted to board a flight to London.

Ms Savage, a mother of two, was stopped at customs at Quito Airport when a sniffer dog alerted his handlers to her luggage. Her baggage was then searched where cocaine was found in the lining of her luggage.

However, Ms Savage (30) denies any wrongdoing and claims the drugs were planted by a friend of her husband but so far her pleas of innocence have fallen on deaf ears. A freelance journalist, she had been living in London with her husband and two children.

The campaign for her release recently gained fresh impetus when Ecuador signed up to the Strasbourg Convention which stipulates that prisoners serving jail sentences abroad can be repatriated to prisons in their own country for completion of sentence or pardon.

In Roisin Zoe Savage's case (she is being held in Quito's Centre de Detencion), this could mean she could back in Ireland as early as next month.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “Strictly speaking, legally we won't be able to guarantee that she will be transferred but negotiations are under way to do the best we can for her under the circumstances."

The spokesperson added that since the Strasbourg Convention does not come into effect in Ecuador until November 1, it is possible they may be a bit more lenient and that she can be transferred before that.

Ecuador prisons are dangerously overcrowded with over 500 Europeans currently incarcerated there.

Ms Savage is being supported by the organisation Fair Trials Abroad (FTA), which has criticised her conviction. FTA assists citizens from the EU accused of a crime in a country other than own and to receive a fair trial.

It asserts that Ms Savage did not receive a fair trial but was naïve and that her good nature was taken advantage of. She believes that the person who planted the drugs in her bag was a friend whom she met in Africa when she opened an orphanage with her husband.

Sometime later she received a call while in London from this man, only identified as "Tony', who asked for assistance as he was in Ecuador and needed help with a visa application to London.

After various unsuccessful attempts to help him, the man asked her to come to Ecuador with her own passport and letters to show the relevant embassy. Once there, he took her shopping, insisting the embassy was closed and bought her a new bag to place presents for her family. Tony then arranged for Ms Savage to meet a friend of his at a restaurant and to leave the shopping with him and he would meet them later. He never showed up but returned the following day with the bag.

Ms Savage found out that the embassy had been open all the time and had a row witnessed by the receptionist of her hotel. Later, she tried to get in touch but claimed Tony had changed his mobile phone. The bag was then searched at Quito airport where 2.6kg of cocaine was discovered.

FTA claimed the Ecuadorian police failed to investigate the case properly - they did not interview employees at the hotel who could have confirmed Tony's presence and the photos of him given by Zoe were lost.

It also claimed there was no interpreter present at her original police interviews - only at her second interview was the Consul present after many requests.

She had to wait 16 months in custody before the trial started. FTA also claimed that if her lawyer ensured that three witnesses were present instead of one the charges would have been dropped.

Dublin North West TD Pat Carey, who once taught in the same school attended by Ms Savage - and knows her well " has recently taken up her case and is hopeful that she will be home soon.

"Everything is a bit up in the air at the moment, very unstable out there," he told The Northside People. “There is a strike in the prison and there has been for some time so you never know what would happen from one day to the next.

"She is in good spirits and quietly optimistic. She is being visited regularly by a number of people out there - she was certainly quite chirpy and bubbly last week when we spoke."

Mr Carey expects her home shortly but in the interim raised concerns about her health.

"She only has one kidney," he said. “The conditions she is living in are very unsatisfactory. By any standards they are well below human rights standards for any prison. She does need important medical care which she can't get out there at least to the level she requires."

He believes that she is innocent and pointed to the fact that FTA has taken up her case, commenting that they do not take cases unless there is some validity.

She has also received support from Honorary Consul, Dominique Kennedy, who makes weekly visits to the prison as does Irish nun, Sister Catherine Codd of the Presentation Sisters, who work with the poor and oppressed in South America. The Irish Commission For Prisoners Overseas has also assisted in the case.

The Department of Justice said it does not comment on individual cases so it didn't speculate as to what would happen if she returns home.

Deputy Carey said: “It would be open to the Irish authorities to investigate whether she should serve all or part of the remainder of her sentence or whether she would be able to walk free " we just don't know."

Mother's prayers to get pardon in jail hell
By Michael Brennan - Thursday August 24 2006

AN IRISH mother who is serving a long jail sentence in Ecuador for drug smuggling has said she is praying she will get a presidential pardon to allow her to go home.

Roisin Savage (30) was jailed for eight years in 2003 when two-and-a-half kilograms of cocaine were found in her luggage in Quito airport as she attempted to board a flight to London.

Speaking briefly via mobile phone from the El Inca jail in Quito, Ms Savage said her time in prison had been very tough.

She said she was hopeful that the controversial Italian lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, who has offered his services, would succeed in getting her a presidential pardon.

"I'm just praying. I'm so positive about it. I'm here too long now. I just need to go home," she told the Irish Independent. Ms Savage, who is originally from Dublin and is a freelance journalist, has always maintained that the drugs were planted in her bag by a friend. She requires specialist medical care because she has only one kidney. Her two children and husband live in London.

Mr Di Stefano is a controversial figure who has worked on the cases of criminals such as John Gilligan and Saddam Hussein. Dublin North Fianna Fail TD Pat Carey said that while he hoped Ms Savage would be released, he did not believe Mr Di Stefano would be able to help.

Anxious

"With all due respect to him, we need his assistance like a hole in the head. I'd be anxious a Government to Government approach be followed," he said.

Mr Di Stefano, due to travel to Equador this week, said he was confident of success. He said he planned to personally visit Ecuador President Alfredo Palacio and called on the Irish Government to provide him with a note of support.

"If the Government is genuine in their attempt to bring this girl back to the Republic of Ireland, they will do that and it will help tremendously," he said.

The Irish Government has been trying to help Ms Savage since Ecuador signed up to the Strasbourg Convention, which means that foreign inmates can be repatriated. However, Mr Carey, who has been involved in the campaign for three years, said there were still a lot technicalities to be sorted out.

"They have formally signed the convention but putting it into practice is another thing. The Government [in Equador] don't seem to understand the complexity of the procedure."

- Michael Brennan
Irish Woman Jailed in Ecuador in Release Plea
Roisin Zoe Savage,30, jailed on drug charges in Ecuador in 2004 has been given a chance for freedom by applying for a Presidential Pardon using a controversial Italian lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, famous for representing Saddam Hussein, Milosevic and Tariq Aziz. Giovanni Di Stefano has filed an application under Art.171 (20) of the Constitution of Ecuador seeking the President Palacio's intervention.

(PRWEB) August 28, 2006 -- Giovanni Di Stefano, the international lawyer currently representing Tariq Aziz and other 'celebrities in trouble', has come to the aid of Roisin Zoe Savage an Irish citizen jailed in Ecuador in 2004 for drug charges. Di Stefano said: " Art.171 (20) confers upon President Palacio or in fact any other President of Ecuador the supreme powers of clemency. This is the very case upon which it should, perhaps must, be used."

In an application filed on Friday 25th August 2006 direct to President Palacio, Mr Di Stefano informed the Ecuadorian President of the plight of his client and of her mother who is terminally ill in Dublin.

Art.171 (20) confers upon President Palacio or in fact any other President of Ecuador the supreme powers of clemency. This is the very case upon which it should, perhaps must, be used. President Palacio, a surgeon with a perfect command of the English language, is expected to rule on the application shortly.

A leading law firm in Quito has been engaged by Di Stefano to assist in general matters and has stated that in the past 25 years no President of Ecuador has ever "issued any form of pardon" or used the powers. Mr Di Stefano however, stated that the reason no President ever issued a pardon is that noone has ever applied.

"No Ecuadorian President has ever been requested in the past 25 years a pardon or remission of sentence. When I spoke to Zoe Savage she and other inmates had never even heard of such powers. The Republic of Ecuador has quite properly aligned itself to the policies of the United States of America. As we all know many have benefited in the US from the Presidential Pardon. Nixon, Weinberger to name but two. Surely Zoe Savage a mother of two young children and a dying mother after having spent three and a half years qualifies. I have asked the President to apply compassion. I am cautiously confident he will," said Di Stefano.

Zoe Savage speaking from El Inca Prison where she has been held since 2003 said that the intervention of Di Stefano was like "a dream come true" and that "after three and a half years of inertia hope my dream of being reunited with my children and my mother come true.

"I am not bitter with the Ecuadorian Government or the justice system. They did their job according to their rules. I am innocent of the charges and I know that my friend planted drugs in my bag. But he fled and the police found them sewn in a bag that my friend had bought for me. I now just want to go home and feel no anger at all against the government of Ecuador," said Zoe Savage.

Di Stefano has also stated in his application that Ecuador may well be in violation of a number of treaties they signed respecting human rights and especially the question of retrospective legislation. "If Ms Savage had the law, as it used to be in 2003 and 2004, applied she would be released already. But what the Government of Ecuador have done is in 2005 abolish parole or any form of remission on a sentence. I am of the view that it should not apply retrospectively and have told President Palacio so."

Di Stefano said he would travel to Ecuador soon and would pay for the flight of Zoe Savage to Dublin thus avoiding any expense upon the Government of Ecuador.

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