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Ex-Muslim detainees plea: Release our passports
A group of citizens who is seeking to visit Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, wants the government to intervene to recover passports and other official documents from Venezuelan authorities. Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, Imam Hamzah Mohammed, one of the three imans who was released from Venezuelan custody in June, said the group had been promised by the Government to assist it in getting back the passports.
Mohammed was detained last March in Venezuela with 15 other nationals, including women and children. Five men remain in custody. A hearing before a Venezuelan tribunal is scheduled for September 2. The group of 15 had gone to Caracas to get visas to visit Saudi Arabia. “When we were released in June, we were promised by the government, who said the original documents —our passports, marriage certificates and birth certificates—were properties of the Government of T&T and that they would help us to get them back.”
Mohammed said Hajj groups were preparing to leave T&T in two weeks time. “Yet, for another time, a group of Muslims are being kept back. Initially, I had gone to Venezuela to get visas for Umrah and was arrested there. Now, we are released but people’s passports, including mine, are still in the hands of the Venezuelan authorities.”
Mohammed said two weeks ago he, along with their spokesperson attorney Nafeesa Mohammed, met with government officials including Minister of National Security Gary Griffith and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran. He said at that meeting the government officials were reminded of the passport issue and how critical it was to have the passports returned to their owners so that they could proceed to perform Hajj, which is a religious requirement, according to the Holy Qur’an.
“We already had to purchase the plane tickets straight to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) which cost US$1,500 a person. This is a lot of money and we cannot afford to lose this. Already, for this school vacation we could not even take our children and family for a vacation overseas.” Mohammed said he was currently attempting to seek a meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the issue. He said he also sent a plea to the Government on behalf of the five persons still being held in Venezuela on allegations of terrorism.