- Assisting People Incarcerated in Oversea's Prisons
Alan Hodgson (U.K)
Update 11 Aug 2010: Alan Hodgson has been transferred to the UK
NAME: Alan Hodgson
NATIONALITY: United Kingdom [Born in County Durham]
CASE BACKGROUND: Bid to free Welshman jailed in drug raid - 19 Feb 2006
by Lucy Ballinger

  THE tiny cell is pitch-black, boiling hot and home to 14 men.

The inmates sleep on the floor, covered by mosquito nets to protect them from malaria. Some of the men keep cats - not as pets but to kill and eat should food run out.

And a stinking open toilet stands in the corner of the room, where the filthy conditions make a perfect breeding ground for rats and cockroaches.

Welshman Alan Hodgson has endured two years inside Ghana's overcrowded Nsawam Prison after he was jailed as part of a £79m cocaine bust.

The desperate father-of-one is working with his mother and campaign group Fair Trials Abroad to launch an appeal against his sentence. If his bid fails, he faces another 18 years' hard labour in squalor.

The African hell-hole is a long way from the 47-year-old's roots in Carway, Carmarthenshire, where he worked as a carpenter for Carmarthenshire Council, before illness forced him to give it up.

He was offered some light work in Ghana by his uncle Kevin Gorman, who has lived in Africa for more than 30 years. The 60-year-old had become ill with prostate cancer and needed help with his fishing company.

  But the morning after Alan arrived in January 2004, police raided Kevin's house and discovered 674 kilos of cocaine hidden in bales in a secret safe behind a mirror.

Kevin admits he accepted £50,000 to look after the bales, but denies knowing what was in them. He blames himself for Alan getting caught up in the trial. But in June 2004, Alan and Kevin were among six men found guilty of illegally importing cocaine and possession of illegal drugs. Each one was sentenced to 20 years' hard labour in the medium security prison, which is crammed with 2,300 prisoners - three times the number of inmates it was built to hold in 1960.

Alan has always protested his innocence, and his mum Shirley Ann Morris, is campaigning to get him out of Ghana's biggest jail.
Since he has been in prison he has lost weight, and his dark, short hair has turned white and grown long and straggly.

"When I saw pictures of him I was appalled," said Shirley, 66, who moved to Turkey from Pontyates in 1997. "He is just an ordinary village boy caught up in a horrible situation.

  "One time his cell-mates started keeping cats, Alan thought they were as pets and that it was a nice idea and quite sweet. Then he realised they have got no food there so were raising the animals to eat them."

Shirley breaks down in tears when she thinks about the conditions her son lives in. "There are 14 of them in one cell, with one toilet. They have to clean it themselves. They get locked in at 6pm until 7am, and in that atmosphere in the heat and the dark it is appalling.

"TB, dysentery and malaria are rife, Alan has already been in hospital twice - once with malaria and another time with a blood infection."
Alan's lifeline has been the £100 his wife of 23 years Theresa sends a local woman every month.

Shirley said: "One of his friends has a housekeeper, Natasha, who Theresa sends money to every month to visit and take Alan food and water. She tried to give him writing paper before, but the authorities wouldn't allow it.

"He asked for a packet of cards after that, but the governor said that would corrupt the men.

"If he didn't have anyone to help him he'd just rot in the prison. I don't think he can handle it, he was suicidal when he was sentenced."

Shirley keeps in contact with Alan through texts her brother Kevin sends out of the prison hospital, where he lives most of the time because of his prostate cancer.

Alan's first appeal failed in November but Shirley has been given fresh hope by Fair Trials Abroad, who take on cases of people who have been prosecuted in foreign countries.

Two of Alan's co-accused have launched appeals which are expected to take place in the summer. If successful, they will be followed by one from the Welsh carpenter. Sabine Zanker, of Fair Trials Abroad, said: "I believe that Alan has a very good case because the only evidence is based on the testimony of a house-maid who gave conflicting evidence.

"She said she saw Alan coming back from the beach when the drugs had been dropped, but he wasn't in Ghana at that time, and we can prove that because of the stamp in his passport - he arrived a few days later.

"So her evidence saying he made the safe in the house can't be trusted, and his uncle has readily admitted he did it himself. I believe there was a lot of politics at the time to get as many men convicted as possible, and three of the six men were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"We are considering flying over to Ghana to look at the appeal of the other two, and I hope we'll be able to speak to Alan too as his appeal will be launched once theirs is over."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed they had been in contact with Alan. She said: "Our consular staff in Ghana visit Mr Hodgson regularly and are keeping track on his appeal."

In the meantime, Alan sits in his cell, facing the long hours of darkness, wondering when he will set foot back in Wales again.

About Alan: Alan was born in Durham, England on 7th June 1958.

A year later, his family moved to live in a Welsh Village in Gwendraeth Valley community of Carway, where he sat on the sports club's committee and helped organise local community events.

Alan has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Theresa, for 23 years and before this terrible ordeal he used to spent a lot of time encouraging their son, Dean, 19, to follow his dream of becoming a footballer. Alan is a huge Manchester United fan and loves all sports. Alan played for his local village team and later took a referees course. He also played cricket, darts and billiards. He loves Bingo and often played on weekends with his wife.

Alan has a great sense of humor and loves to tell jokes and drink the odd pint of beer with friends.

Most people who meet him enjoy his company; he's really down to earth and is usually the life of the party. He believes in an honest days work for an honest days pay.

Alan worked for many years as a carpenter for Carmarthenshire County Council – where he was known by colleagues as Ianto – but he was forced to stop work due to illness.

He is a great gardener and loves the outdoors. He has a dog called Patch, a Jack Russell Terrier (crazy dog) who he misses terribly.

Alan loves fishing, swimming and being around people for Sunday get-to-gethers. He was a good neighbour and well liked by those in his community.

Alan's mother Shirley [born 21 June 1939] lives with her partner Yusaf in Turkey.

Case Timeline: January 2004 - Arrested
June 2004 – Taken to Trial
October 2004 – Sentenced [20 years]
June 2005 – Lodged Appeal [failed]
October 2006 – Two co-accused appeal [David Logan & Frank Lavenck]
October 2006 – Alan's lawyer fails to lodge appeal
February 2007 – Two co-accused released [above]
April 2007 – Alan hospitalized
June 2009 – Alan sentenced 20 years hard labour
Aug 2010 - Repatriated to UK prison
News Reports  BBC 3 Aug 2010 Click here
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