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Suspects still inside

Published: 
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Legal bid for release of men detained in Carnival plot unlikely
Soldiers patrol Mustapha Lane in El Socorro, as police continued their search of the home of the suspects involved in a plot to disrupt Carnival activities on Friday.

Attorneys for the men detained in last Thursday's police probe of a Carnival disruption plot are making legal bids for their release.

This, after the 48-hour period in which the men could have been detained without charges expired between 7 am and 9 am yesterday. Shamoon Mohammed, father of detainee Tariq Mohammed, said he was also sending a "demand letter" to Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams and the arresting officer, seeking immediate release of his son.

But official sources told the T&T Guardian the four men may remain detained throughout Carnival.

Mohammed said their attorney yesterday began filing a writ of habeas corpus to have Mohammed released as the 48-hour detention period ended yesterday.

Mohammed added, "We've complied and co-operated. But the 48 hours expired and we felt they should have freed him. Therefore, we must file this writ. We are also sending the demand letter to the CoP and arresting officer."

He said Mohammed was allowed to use a phone to call his family late last Friday night. He asked for a change of clothes as the police had not finished their questioning.

Mohammed added, "When police came last Thursday, they requested Tariq to go with them voluntarily, they didn't demand. He wasn't handcuffed. Once he's released, they're free to talk to him and we invite them to search. But they have no right to continue holding him at this point."

The writ was expected to be completed by 4 pm yesterday. It will be served today or tomorrow.

The attorney is seeking to have Mohammed appear before a judge for authorities to explain why he continues to be detained and was not charged. The family hoped the application will be heard immediately by a judge in chambers in emergency session.

Mohammed said his other two sons who were affected in last Thursday's searches are writing the Police Complaints Authority. He said one was hit and the other forced to lie down and his hands were tied up.

 

Heightened security

 

There was heightened security as Carnival 2018 got going yesterday with parade of children's bands in downtown Port-of-Spain. Security presence was highly visible in and around parade perimeters.

Security in T&T has been high following searches at homes in El Socorro and other areas—including the Nur E Islam mosque—early last Thursday. Several people were detained concerning the disruption plot. Police Information officer ASP Michael Jackman revealed police had unearthed credible information of a threat to disrupt Carnival. He confirmed the individuals planned to engage in criminal conduct to disrupt Carnival activities.

Yesterday, Jackman confirmed police investigations are continuing.

There has been no confirmation that any others have been detained since Thursday. But security sources said "solid" investigations have been ongoing by police across T&T for some time on this matter and Thursday's events "didn't just happen out of the blue".

They noted Government's mandate for national agencies to reinforce security systems following word of T&T nationals joining Islamic State over 2013-15 and also after some nationals were sent back to T&T from the Middle East over 2016-17.

Rajaee Ali shifted from Frederick Street prison

Amid the heightened security, sources indicated murder accused Rajaee Ali was shifted from the Frederick Street prison last Friday to the Maximum Security prison. The Frederick Street prison is along the Carnival parade route. They also said a Cunupia mosque was searched by police yesterday afternoon. National Security Minister Edmund Dillon did not answer calls on this yesterday.

The family of another detainee, Mustapha Khan, also said they had spoken to attorneys and will proceed "accordingly" to act after the end of the 48 hours. "Let the law take its course, he'll be vindicated."

They said when police returned to their El Socorro home with sniffer dogs to do a second search on Friday afternoon, they found no guns or ammunition. They said they only took documents.

"They were very courteous and professional, no abuse or threats. Fawaz is only 28 with a wife and three-year-old child, he never had any brush with the law," they said.

Ali's relatives said their attorney was filing a writ seeking his release.

"But we're hearing they wouldn't release them before the Carnival. It's very sad. Fawaz had made plans for the long Carnival weekend to fix the house and his truck," they added.

"We've been able to drop food for him at the (police) station, but we can't see him. An officer said we could bring his Qur'an for him to read."

A fourth, allegedly one Eddie Ishmael Aleong, from Enterprise, is also still in custody. The men are detained at different East-West Corridor police stations.

FLASHBACK

In an exclusive Sunday Guardian interview in February 2017, Tariq Mohammed had appealed to T&T authorities to clear his name after the Islamic studies scholar returned home after being detained in Saudi Arabia for 16 months. T&T police had also questioned him on links to terrorism before he left for Saudi Arabia in 2015.

When he arrived in Saudi in 2015, he was detained and questioned by Saudis about suspicion of terrorism. Mohammed—a student at the University of Medina for seven years—was not charged and was released. He arrived home last December and was grilled by Immigration for two hours.

Mohammed, the nephew of attorney Nafeesa Mohammed, related instances of perceived torture. He had warned that one could fall victim to entrapment in Saudi Arabia. He had also said that after his experience he wasn’t encouraging anyone to “‘study anything in the Middle East”.

During his detention in Saudi prisons, he was alongside inmates including scholars, political prisoners and people who fought in Afghanistan. He said he was asked about Isis and about T&T people who joined (Isis) and was told Saudi agencies had a close eye on the university he attended and “hunted it” for Isis members

He had said “T&T is a nice place, let’s stay out of fighting any war and live peacefully. The way things are going, you have to keep your distance."

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