Monday, July 25, 2005

Inside Thailand's Bangkwang Prison

Hello, my name is Martin Garnett. I'm an Australian serving a 26 year and 9 month prison sentence in Thailand for drug trafficking. I'm held under the name of Mitchell Ian Blake and I've been here since 1993.

I have been indicted by a grand jury in America for allegedly running a heroin ring from inside Thailand's Bangkwang maximum security prison (case number 2:02-CR-00034-(01)-RM, United States District court Northern District of Indianna, Hammond Division).

There are three people named on the indictment. Myself and 2 Thai nationals. One Thai man Paisit Bencharit and one Thai lady Sawanee Sriprasarn. The Thai man was a prisoner in Bangkwang prison but was RELEASED on May the 5th 2005, despite being subject to the same American arrest warrant and extradition order that are being used to prosecute me. The Thai lady named in the indictment has never been arrested.

Because of the extradition request I have been unable to transfer to Australia under the prisoner exchange treaty (between Thailand and Australia) even though Australia has approved my transfer.

The reason I need help is this: America is not seeking my extradition now but has requested that I be extradited at the END of my Thai sentence which stands at May 22nd 2020. I am willing to go to court now to resolve this matter but cannot. Can it be correct that I'm being prevented from transferring due to only an indictment and how can a person be extradited 20 years after the crime? Do I have any rights? Do I have the right to a speedy trial?

But wait there is more!

The American indictment claims I did all this from inside Bangkwang prison. This is impossible not only due to the fact that there are no phones or computers in Bangwang, but mostly due to the simple fact that I WAS NOT IN THAT PRISON during the time I'm alleged to have formed this conspiracy and sent heroin to America. I was in a totally different prison called Klong Prem prison. This would be the same as saying someone ran a drug ring out of Sydney's Long Bay prison when in fact the prisoner named was in Silverwater prison. In short, the American indictment is totally wrong. Certainly drugs were sent to America but not by me. I was in Bangkwang and the time of the crime (November 2000) I had not been there for 2 years and 9 months!

Still there is more!

Forward to 2004. Nothing had been done. America had not begun the legal proceedings of extradition yet I was prevented from transferring. With no options remaining I went on a hunger strike to force the matter to be brought to court. After 31 days without food I got my court date.

I'm sending you the court judgement. I LOST the extradition case - which I HAD to fight due to the nature of the American request (that I be sent in 2020). If they had requested my extradition now I'd have been happy to go.

There is no evidence against me. Sadly I was not told ANY details of the American charges before I was sent to the court for the extradition hearing. Now I'm appealing the extradition on the basis that I was not there but I need help.

I need legal representation in America because surely if they see I 'could not' have been involved they would withdraw the indictment (or whatever it is they call cancellation of the case America has put forward).

I also need help with this Thai appeal. I need you to put pressure on the Australian government to ensure that evidence on me NOT being in Bangkwang at the times mentioned is acknowledged by the Thai court.

You see, America has almost complete power in Thailand and indeed the Australian Government seems unwilling to do anything to help me for fear of upsetting America.

All I'm asking for is that the Thai court listen to the witnesses and look at the facts. That really should not be too much to ask. I believe that letters from you, directly to the court, stating that you will be monitoring this case, would also be very helpful. (You are welcome to send letters via me, please do not rely on the Australian Embassy to deliver such letters to the court).

Not one witness said they had any evidence against me. All they have done is look at the American report (which sadly I can't afford to mail to you), which is SO TOTALLY wrong that it says I was in a totally different prison to the one I was actually in. You can see from the judgement papers (which were translated by the embassy at the request of the Australian Minister for Justice Senator Chris Ellison) that I'm supposed to have done all this while I was in Bangkwang. The conspiracy is alleged to have begun in January 1999. The drugs (420 grams) were sent November 17th 2000.

I left Bangkwang Prison on February 13th 1998 and did not return to Bangkwang until January 24th 2001. Simply I was not there while all this went on.

There was a shipment of heroin in April of 2001. This was just 6.5 grams. I was physically in Bangwang at that time but obviously the "conspiracy" was well under way by then and I had nothing to do with any of it.

I was investigated many times by the Thai correction department because I'd been under intense observation due to this "case", yet never was any evidence found of my involvement.

Simply, it seems that my name was used by the people involved in this crime. This is done, so that when "trouble" comes, it comes to the person whose name is being used and the actual people involved simply close up the operation. It's not my job to "work out" what was done or how. My only objective is to transfer to an Australian prison so that I can complete my sentence in more humane conditions. You can not imagine the "special treatment" I've had within the Thai prison system since the indictment made the front page of the Bangkok newspapers in 2002. I need some help and I need it now.

Please look at what I'm sending you. I have the documents in Thai if you wish to do your own translations. For now I'm sending you only the English translations. Please consider writing letters to Thai court for me. Please help me to get a letter from the Australian Government. (I'm sending Senator Ellison and Attorney General Mr Phillip Ruddock the same documents I'm sending you). All I'm asking is that the Thai appeal court take the facts into account and realise that the American report is incorrect. Indeed the judgement of the Thai court in this extradition case is incorrect. They did not even check my prison history of where I was. They just blindly followed what America said on a piece of paper. A piece of paper that is totally wrong.

It can't be correct that I have to sit here until 2020, and then go to America, due to and incorrect American indictment. Please help me.

Mitchell Ian Blake
Klong Prem Central Prison
Dan 2 -33/2 Ngam Wong Wan Road
Bangkhen - Chatujuck

24th July 2005

Foreign Prisoner Support Service

Bangkwang is one of Thailands most notorious prisons. Often called 'The Big Tiger' for its ability to eat a man alive, it caters to prisoners who are serving 30 years to life. Death Row inmates are also placed at Bangkwang.

By Martin Garnett 25 July 05