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Hearing for Trinis held in Venezuela adjourned

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Five Trinidadians detained in Venezuela for 131 days were disappointed yesterday when their tribunal hearing was adjourned to August 18.

Nafeesa Mohammed, spokesperson for the group, said the Venezuelan Ministry of Justice said it needed more time to go through the evidence.

However, Mohammed said all hope was not lost. 

“We consider this as a positive sign because it shows that they’re considering the information that our lawyers have given to them, instead of rushing to make a quick judgment,” she said.

Mohammed said the families of the five men were understandably disappointed because they were hoping for some closure to the issue which began on March 19 when the men were held on allegations of terrorism. 

“They’re just trying to bear it right now because that’s all they can do.”

She said the matter was still at the tribunal stage and the men were yet to be formally charged. “Under the Terrorism Act in Venezuela, the authorities can keep you for 45 days while they do their investigations. In this case, they first extended this period a further 20 days, but it seems like we are still in this extension and we’re well over 100 days.”

“Our information is that because of the current situation in Venezuela the process is a highly political one. However, we are trusting that the Venezuelan justice system will act fairly.”

Mohammed renewed her calls for the T&T Government to use the highest diplomatic channels to ensure that the Venezuelan authorities address the situation with the urgency that it required. She said Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran was “dragging his feet” on this issue. 

“He has not risen to the occasion in taking decisive action. I made efforts to contact him before the hearing today so he will know what was going on. I sent him messages but he has not responded.

“There has been some support but it has been minimal. We are not getting a concerted effort because there is very little co-ordination among the ministries. I’m appealing to the Prime Minister to please look into the matter and see how the highest level of diplomacy can be used to bring an end to this.”