Iranian government pardons convicted Filipino drug mule
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Iranian government had pardoned a Christian religious singer from Magpet, North Cotabato who was arrested in Tehran in 2010 over drug charges, a family member said Tuesday, September 17.
Ernie Tamonde, who insists on his innocence, arrived in Barangay Noa in Magpet on Sunday, September 15, according to his sister, Emmie. She did not provide additional details.
Emmie said her brother was initially sentenced to death and was sent to a prison in Mashhad in northeast Iran where he was to await his execution.
“He was sentenced to death, then life sentence, then 20 years imprisonment. Before his sentence was over, he was given [a] pardon by the Iranian government,” Emmie said.
Ernie, then 28, was flying out of Iran on January 12, 2010 and was about to continue his religious mission in Malaysia when an Iranian friend asked him to drop by Thailand to carry a package for him. The package supposedly contained clothes.
Based on Ernie's account to family members, the Iranian man shouldered his ticket to Thailand and Malaysia.
Ernie said he was passing by airport security when he was arrested for possession of some 2.34 kilograms of unspecified illegal drugs. Ernie denied owning the illegal drugs.
Ernie's situation caught the attention of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and support poured for him.
The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), had lobbied for Ernie's case. In return, the arrested religious singer got "special privileges", such as access to telephone and a lawyer.
Hundreds of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are in jail abroad for unwittingly becoming drug mules, victimized by international crime syndicates.
The case of Filipina maid, Mary Jane Veloso, was among the stories that brought public attention to the plight of Filipino migrant workers who had fallen prey to the syndicates. Veloso remains in jail in Indonesia.
The Indonesian government has given Veloso a reprieve from her death sentence while the human trafficking case filed against her alleged recruiters undergoes trial in a Nueva Ecija court. Veloso, who has been in jail for more than 8 years, claimed the recruiters used her as a drug mule. – Rappler.com