KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – An overseas Filipino worker sentenced to death in March 2009 in Iran for drug trafficking, a crime he said he did not commit, is finally home after a decade of imprisonment.
Ernie Tamonde, who wrote novels while in jail, arrived home on September 14.
Tamonde worked in a travel agency in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in 2008 and went to Iran in March 2009 for vacation.
While in Iran, he said he was befriended by a national who could speak English. From Iran, Tamonde was flying to Thailand for a gig with his band when the Iranian national requested him to bring a package for his friend.
Tamonde said he did not know the package contained two kilos of cocaine.
In March 2009, he was sentenced to die through public hanging. He said he was among 600 inmates who were waiting for their turn to die.
“For seven months from March 2009, I stopped living. I no longer took a bath. I thought anytime I will die just like the others,” he recounted.
He expected to die in November 2009. In early 2010, he was told that his sentence was commuted to life.
“It was a relief. When I was being transferred to another building, I refused to have a final look at the death area where I suffered so much,” he said.
While inside prison, a human rights worker helped him by informing the United Nations of his case. The worker told the UN that a Filipino named Tamonde was imprisoned in Iran for a crime he allegedly did not commit.
“So from there, my case was being studied. That is why from life sentence, the judge commuted it to 20 years,” he stressed.
It was in 2017 when a lady attorney from Iran approached Tamonde and offered him pro bono service.
“The attorney, whose name I will protect, helped me get out of prison. From 20 years, the judge told me to pay the remaining years. My friends and family members back home helped my sister Emmie raise the amount,” he said.
In March 2017, Emmie published “The Red Diamond,” Tamonde’s first book which depicted his life story.
Tamonde said his second book entitled, “The Brownie’s Journey,” is soon to be published. His other books include, “Girlyfly: In the Lily Kingdom,” a fantasy piece. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)