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Dookeran: T&T to appeal no bail order
T&T has appealed a ruling by the Venezuelan authorities that eight Muslim men who had gone to Venezuela to seek Saudi Arabian visas and were detained should be held without recourse to bail, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran has said. The appeal is expected to be heard within the next two weeks. The men were arrested on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan government and other terrorism charges.
Dookeran spoke about the issue in the House of Representatives, Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. He said with respect to the eight men who are still in detention, T&T’s ambassador in Caracas had been liaising with the authorities to ensure legal access for the group. Dookeran added: “The Venezuelan authorities have ruled that the defendants be held without recourse to bail. The T&T embassy is working with legal counsel and an appeal to this ruling has been lodged.”
“I’m informed the appeal is expected to be heard in ten to 15 days. The matter is still under the investigatory process.” Dookeran said he and Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall, who led a T&T fact-finding mission, are maintaining regular contact with T&T’s ambassador in Caracas. He added: “This issue has caused much anguish in our society, understandably so, and I empathise with those persons who have been affected.
“However, in our relations with other states including Venezuela, while making representations on behalf of our citizens, we must also abide by the laws of that state. I assure you that all diplomatic efforts are being made and we will continue to provide support for citizens who in their lawful pursuits are affected by these developments.”
Meanwhile, Dookeran said arrangements have been put in place for T&T nationals to obtain Saudi Arabian visas in this country. He said T&T and the Saudi Arabian government established formal diplomatic relations in July 1974 and the governments are appointing honorary consuls in T&T and in Saudi Arabia.
Over the years T&T nationals have travelled to Caracas to apply for visas to visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj, but Dookeran added that in recent years, arrangements have been made with the Saudi Arabian government to have immigration officers travel to T&T to process applications, and last year three Saudi Arabian officials came to T&T to issue visas. Saying he met with Saudi Arabian Justice Minister Dr Fahah Al Dawood in T&T recently, Dookeran said topics discussed included the increase in visa allocations.
“It’s anticipated for Hajj 2014 the Saudi Arabian government will again send immigration officers to T&T to process visa applications. As soon as the dates are confirmed we’ll inform the public accordingly,” Dookeran added.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Twenty-three T&T citizens were detained by Venezuelan intelligence services on March 19. Dookeran said he’d been advised those detained had gone to Venezuela to obtain visas to visit Saudi Arabia, and he’d been in touch with Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Elias Jose Jaua Milano. A seven-member T&T mission headed by Kelshall, with legal and intelligence officers, went to Venezuela on March 27-28 and secured the release of 15 women and children, all of whom have since returned to T&T.