A Mullingar woman will walk 573km later this month to raise awareness of a man she believes should be released from prison.
Paco Larranaga was 573km away from the site of the murder of two young women he was convicted of murdering in the Philippines in July 1997 and the UN and Amnesty International have advocated that he be released.
Mullingar’s Grainne McHugh was so upset and outraged by a BBC documentary she saw describing the trial and imprisonment in a Spanish jail, that she felt she had to do something.
“It’s so extreme,” she told the Mullingar Advertiser.
“It isn’t the only case of injustice in the world, but the case showed me, on a personal level, just how ridiculous and corrupt justice in the Phillipines is.”
She referred to how the judge fell asleep during the trial, and how dozens of reliable witnesses who could place him on a different island at the time of the killings were not allowed to give evidence.
“I couldn’t fathom that happening here,” she said. “The chain of events got more and more ridiculous and it baffled me.”
The fact that Paco is half Spanish means he gets to spend his sentence in Spain, where he is well treated by prison officers and a system which believes he should be released but is powerless to do so.
The new president of the Philippines abolished the death penalty to save the lives of Paco and the other men convicted, but she could not undo the conviction and give Paco his freedom.
It was this story that spurred 29-year-old Grainne to begin by donating some of her savings to the campaign to have him released.
She was then contacted by the director of a film about Paco’s life and became more involved in the campaign..‘Give Up Tomorrow’ is Paco’s motto and the title of the film, a testament to Paco’s positivity and ‘don’t give up now’ philosophy.
On April 22 at 3pm there will be a bucket collection at St Paul’s church where she’s urging the public to join a 4km canal loop walk and support the cause.
Grainne, who is in serious training for her long walk, will be accompanied by her faithful hound Finbar who will wear special bootees to protect his feet as they walk the Camino di Santiago, a famous pilgrim route in Spain, later this month.
Grainne says the walk will take a month, which is longer than usual, but she’ll be taking Finbar into consideration with the slower pace.
She hopes that if enough Irish people support Paco by signing at petition a www.freepaconow.com Spain will bow to international pressure.
And at www.indiegogo.com/paco she’s trying to raise €14,500, €1,000 for each year he has been in prison.
For more information log on to www.facebook.com/caminoforpaco