Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 5th 2014 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 5, 2014
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T&T has appealed a
ruling by the Venezuelan
authorities that eight
Muslim men who had
gone to Venezuela to
seek Saudi Arabian visas
and were detained
should be held without
recourse to bail, Foreign
Affairs Minister Win-
ston Dookeran has said.
The appeal is expected
to be heard within the
next two weeks. The men
were arrested on suspi-
cion of plotting to over-
throw the Venezuelan
government and other
Dookeran spoke about
the issue in the House of
D, Waterfront Centre,
He said with respect
to the eight men who are
still in detention, T&T s
ambassador in Caracas
had been liaising with the
authorities to ensure legal
access for the group.
Dookeran added: "The
have ruled that the
defendants be held with-
out recourse to bail. The
T&T embassy is working
with legal counsel and an
appeal to this ruling has
"I m informed the
appeal is expected to be
heard in ten to 15 days.
The matter is still under
the investigatory process."
Dookeran said he and
Rear Admiral Richard
Kelshall, who led a T&T
fact-finding mission, are
maintaining regular con-
tact with T&T s ambas-
sador in Caracas.
He added: "This issue
has caused much anguish
in our society, under-
standably so, and I
empathise with those
persons who have been
"However, in our rela-
tions with other states
while making represen-
tations on behalf of our
citizens, we must also
abide by the laws of that
state. I assure you that
all diplomatic efforts are
being made and we will
continue to provide sup-
port for citizens who in
their lawful pursuits are
affected by these devel-
The chants of the Muslim women
were louder than those of the men as
they demanded an immediate inter-
vention by the T&T Government to
have the eight T&T Muslim men freed
from a Venezuelan prison.
The group, which appeared more
vociferous than the day before, con-
sisted mostly of women and children,
who lined the pavement outside the
Venezuelan Embassy at Victoria Avenue,
They were supported by Ruth Albor-
noz of the group Venezuelans in T&T.
Albornoz said the plight of the
detained Muslims echoed the hardships
of the Venezuelan people, who have
no access to basic commodities, includ-
ing toilet paper.
"Venezuelans share a kind of senti-
ment in a way that we are living this
kind of thing. Our students are being
tortured, being abused, being raped...we
are defending human rights.
"We don t care about being from
any religion, whether Muslims (or not).
If your rights were violated, our rights
are being violated right now as we speak
in Venezuela," Albornoz said.
A teacher at the University of T&T
(UTT), Albornoz said she fled Venezuela
some 12 years ago and made this coun-
try her home.
She also called on the Venezuelan
government to apologise to the Muslim
community for treatment of the
If the matter goes to a tribunal,
Albornoz said, there was the possibility
that the Muslims would not get a fair
Local Muslim groups have knocked
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
and President Anthony Carmona for
standing idly by and doing nothing.
Hisham Muhammad Hassan said it
appeared Carmona cared more for
giraffes than for citizens, a reference
to the President s public concern over
the culling of a giraffe in Denmark in
"My concern is not only for the
imams, but there are about 50 to 60
people who invested money to visit the
holy land. All that is jumping up now
all because people are held under a sit-
uation with no evidence," Hassan said.
The detained men, who include three
well respected imams from masjids in
T&T, were due to visit Saudi Arabia on
an Umrah trip to Mecca last Tuesday.
They had 60 passports with them
and US$102,000 in cash, which was
seized. They were held at the Plaza
Hotel, Sabana Grande in downtown
A ministerial team led by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran, right, speaks to relatives of the
eight men presently detained in Venezuela during a meeting at the Parliament Building, Tower D, Waterfront
Centre, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. The other ministers who attended were Minister of State in the Ministry of
Finance and the Economy, Rudranath Indarsingh, left, Public Utilities Minister Nizam Baksh and Housing
Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE
DETENTION OF MUSLIMS IN VENEZUELA
Support grows for detainees
said arrangements have
been put in place for
T&T nationals to obtain
Saudi Arabian visas in
this country. He said
T&T and the Saudi Ara-
bian government estab-
lished formal diplomatic
relations in July 1974 and
the governments are
consuls in T&T and in
Over the years T&T
nationals have travelled
to Caracas to apply for
visas to visit Saudi Arabia
for Hajj, but Dookeran
added that in recent
years, arrangements have
been made with the
Saudi Arabian govern-
ment to have immigra-
tion officers travel to
T&T to process applica-
tions, and last year three
Saudi Arabian officials
came to T&T to issue
Saying he met with
Saudi Arabian Justice
Minister Dr Fahah Al
Dawood in T&T recently,
Dookeran said topics dis-
cussed included the
increase in visa alloca-
"It s anticipated for
Hajj 2014 the Saudi Ara-
bian government will
again send immigration
officers to T&T to
process visa applications.
As soon as the dates are
confirmed we ll inform
the public accordingly,"
Dookeran: T&T to
appeal no bail order
WHAT IT'S ABOUT
Twenty-three T&T citizens were detained by
Venezuelan intelligence services on March 19.
Dookeran said he'd been advised those detained had
gone to Venezuela to obtain visas to visit Saudi
Arabia, and he'd been in touch with Venezuelan
Foreign Affairs Minister Elias Jose Jaua Milano.
A seven-member T&T mission headed by Kelshall,
with legal and intelligence officers, went to
Venezuela on March 27-28 and secured the release
of 15 women and children, all of whom have since
returned to T&T.
TRIBUNAL JUST A RUMOUR
Inshan Ishmael of the Muslim
Social and Cultural Foundation said
statements that the eight were
supposed to appear before a
Venezuelan tribunal were a rumour.
Ishmael said he has been keeping
in touch with the men by phone and
they had no knowledge of this.
"We were informed directly from
them that they have not appeared
before any tribunal. Their attorneys
are not aware of any tribunal, and it
looks as if this issue is to be
dragged on for the next 45 days.
"We will continue to fight to
ensure they are freed," Ishmael said.
WE DID ALL WE COULD: GARY
Contacted yesterday National
Security Minister Gary Griffith said
the T&T Government had been
doing everything that was
diplomatically possible to assist the
eight detained men.
He said Venezuela's justice
system must be respected.
"In similar manner, if anything
happens with our law enforcement
officers, and our officials arrest
anyone from another country, that
country obviously has to
understand and respect the
authority of T&T, based on what
may have happened.
"So it would be inappropriate for
us to do more than we can and
should do," Griffith said.
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