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The three imams who were released from custody by Venezuelan authorities are in a hotel now and will return home as soon as paperwork and other issues are worked out, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran says. However, five other T&T nationals held by Venezuelan authorities since last December are still in custody. Dookeran said that was another matter that is still on going.
Imtiaz Mohammed, a colleague of the three freed imams, said yesterday their return was dependent on getting back their passports and money, which were seized by Venezuelan authorities. He said the T&T Government was working on the matter yesterday in Caracas. Mohammed thanked the Foreign Affairs and National Security Ministries for their role in securing the release of the trio. Mohammed said the three were examined by a doctor and found to be healthy.
“The doctor also confirmed they were not mentally or physically abused,” Mohammed added. He said the imams’ personal belongings, including passports and US$6,000, were seized and had not been returned to them. He said their lawyers and the T&T High Commission were dealing with that yesterday. The imams’ return to Trinidad would be determined by the outcome of that issue, Mohammed added. “We cannot say how much time or days this would take to resolve,” he said.
Mohammed said the men were being provided with security while in Venezuela. He said the law firm, Tamayo-Tamayo, assisted at a cost of $17,000 and overall costs are almost $120,000 with which the Muslim community assisted. The three imams released from Sebin prison, Caracas, on Tuesday are Hamza Mohammed and Sheik Hassan Hamid of the Las Lomas mosque and Abdul Salaam of Marabella Jamaat.
They were detained in Venezuela on March 19 with another group of T&T nationals. Fifteen women and children from the other group were later released after government intervention. The imams, who were separate from the group, were detained under Venezuela’s terrorism act.