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JAMAICA | Attorney demands release of Jamaicans illegally held in Florida

Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels wants to find out when the Jamaican government will be demanding the release of four Jamaican citizens in US Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels wants to find out when the Jamaican government will be demanding the release of four Jamaican citizens in US
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica December 29, 2020 – Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels wants to find out when the Jamaican government will be demanding the release of four Jamaican citizens whose boat was blown-up by the US Coast Guard, arrested, tried and acquitted by the US courts, yet are still being illegally held by the US immigration.

Samuels says he also wants to know whether the four Jamaicans arrested at sea two months ago by the United States Coast Guard were “kidnapped” under the veil of the Shiprider Agreement.

Samuels told a news conference yesterday, that he has written to Jamaica's foreign minister seeking a response to the continued detention of the men and the actions being taken by the government of Jamaica to address the matter. 

He said the silence from Jamaica's attorney general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the plight of the men has been “deafening.”

He noted that since the men were acquitted and sent to US immigration last Wednesday, they have not heard anything further from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor from the attorney general on the matter.

According to court documents, on October 12, 2020, while on routine patrol, US Coast Guard cutter Diligence detected a 23-metre fishing vessel approximately 126 nautical miles in international waters southeast of Kingston.

The affidavit stated that the US Coast Guard launched an “over the horizon” to conduct reconnaissance, observation and assessment of the vessel.

According to the court document, “the men were unable to fully explain what they were fishing for and that the vessel had little fishing gear on board” and that had “no catch for the seven days they had been out to sea”.

Further, the affidavit stated that Lady Lawla was not broadcasting its automatic identification system and that it was then that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was notified and that they affirmed the boat’s registry and authorised boarding under flag state jurisdiction.

It was noted in the affidavit that a search was undertaken and 21 plastic cans were found in a fish hold, 15 of which were full, and that in addition, when asked, the boat’s captain, Clark, became nervous in his response.

“A Narcotics Identification Kit test was conducted on the 15 cans and all tested positive for cocaine, resulting in 150 gallons of liquid cocaine,” the affidavit read, pointing out that the men and the vessel were then taken into US custody.

The court document mentioned that the US Coast Guard “requested to destroy the vessel as a danger to navigation” and that the JDF authorised the Diligence to destroy the vessel. It was destroyed within two days.

The court however, found no evidence of cocaine, according to attorney Bianca Samuels. The crew were detained for 17 days between October 11, 2020, and December 23, 2020, on the alleged basis of having found 150 gallons of liquid cocaine.

The US federal marshal brought the men before Judge Chris McAliley of the Southern District of Florida District Court who  “ruled to terminate the detention of all four Jamaicans on the basis that there was in fact no evidence of a find of cocaine and that it was merely gasolene which had been misidentified as the drug in liquid form and ordered that they be sent home to Jamaica,” said Miss Samuels. “No charges were laid against any of the four men.”

“These are Jamaicans who left Jamaica declaring their port of destination and armed with their passports, which were examined by Jamaican immigration. These passports were taken from them by the US Coast Guard. We now demand that, through our foreign ministry, the passports of these four Jamaicans be returned to them to facilitate their departure from the United States, back home, by way of an ordinary international flight,” Samuels said.

The attorney questioned the position of the Jamaican authorities, “based on the false premise on which the Jamaican nationals were detained, whilst located 100 miles south of Port Royal, and unlawfully brought into the US and the vessel destroyed.”

Samuels says he wants to know whether there will be an apology to the owner of the boat, his crew members and their family;

He also wants an apology to Jamaica, a treaty State, as well as compensation for the loss of the vessel and its earning capacity — without their clients having to go through the expense of filing.

Samuels says he also wants for his clients, compensation for the virtual torture and tarnishing of their reputation on the false pretence that they were involved in a massive cocaine trade.

He also questioned what “level of assistance, if any, does treaty partner, the USA, give to the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard which may compromise Jamaica's ability, as a sovereign nation, to confront breaches of the treaty by the United Sates Coast Guard on issues such as this involving unlawful detention of our citizens and destruction of citizens' property?”

Samuels said Jamaica must be concerned that within its economic zone, in the Caribbean Sea, a boat has been destroyed — literally emptying thousands of gallons of fuel, waste, and pollution into the sea, endangering marine life.

“This is especially egregious in circumstances where the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, which ratified the Ship rider Treaty, mandates in Section 14(2) that 'law enforcement officials of the treaty State shall, when boarding and carrying out a search on a Jamaican vessel, take into account the need: (a) not to endanger the safety of life at sea or the security of the vessel being searched and of its cargo',” he pointed out.

“The boat had thousands of gallons of fuel in its 20,000-gallon capacity tank. It had material which will undoubtedly pollute our Caribbean Sea. This act of lawlessness is unacceptable! We hold the US accountable to our citizens to explain why the destruction of the vessel was necessary, and we hold Jamaica accountable to its citizens as to why it granted them permission to do so,” he added.

Last modified onThursday, 31 December 2020 18:56
  • Countries: Jamaica
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