BELFAST, IRELAND, February 7, 2004 (STAR) By Vi Massart, Chief European Correspondent / Paris Bureau Chief - Lawyers of Jaybe Ofrasio, a Filipino detained here, are now preparing a bail application with the Belfast Magistrates Court for his temporary release.

Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins Solicitors, a Belfast law firm appointed by the Northern Irish Courts to provide legal assistance to Ofrasio, said that the hearing is set for next week.

Ofrasio, 31, a native of Cotobato, was charged by the County Court division of Belfast last Feb. 4 with two offenses under Section 17 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000.

The Country Court charged that between April 1 and 18, 2003, Ofrasio "entered into an arrangement as a result of which money was made available to another who knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that such money would be used or may be used for the purposes of terrorism" and that on dates between Jan. 1 and Oct. 19, 2003, the accused "entered into an arrangement as a result of which property was made available to another who knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that such property would be used or may be used for the purposes of terrorism."

Ofrasio was arrested on Jan. 29 at his home here in Belfast and subsequently detained. Although interrogated by the Northern Irish Police Force during 29 interviews over a period of five days at Antrim Holding Centre, Ofrasio’s lawyers confirmed to The STAR Paris Bureau that the detained Filipino is in good health.

"We have four serious concerns about this prosecution," Coyle, however, said.

"Firstly, we have had no opportunity to challenge the source and caliber of the international intelligence information relied upon by police in this case. Such information cannot be accepted at face value. Secondly, there is a question about whether the courts in Northern Ireland have jurisdiction to deal with these alleged offenses. Thirdly, there are alarming discrepancies in police attempts to connect computer generated data to our client. Fourthly, police are relying upon association between our client and another person who is currently interned without trial in South East Asia."

Coyle did not elaborate on who that person is but added that her "client has provided a full and frank explanation for this association."

In Coyle’s view, heavy reliance on intelligence information by any prosecuting authority is a flawed and dangerous foundation for such charges.

In a telephone interview with The STAR, Consul General Mario de Leon of the Philippine Embassy in London disclosed that in accordance with a directive by President Arroyo to ensure that Ofrasio’s rights are protected, the Embassy has dispatched Consul Neal Ferrer and Labor Attaché Victor Ablan to Belfast to coordinate with Ofrasio’s defense attorneys.

De Leon said that he is still awaiting reports from the two officials.

"Let us not prejudice Ofrasio, the authorities holding him or the court. Let us wait for developments and take them in objectively and fairly," Mrs. Arroyo stated in an official statement issued in Malacañang yesterday.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs shall continuously monitor and submit reports on the progress of the case and see to it that all the rights of the accused are protected and being respected by the authorities holding him in custody," she added. — With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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