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UPDATE: Trinidad union leader on sedition charge released on bail

Friday, August 30, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The leader of the Public Services Association (PSA), Watson Duke, was granted a quarter million dollars (one TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) bail when he appeared in a magistrate's court here Friday on a charge of sedition.

Duke, who had been hospitalised on three occasions this week ever since he was taken in by police for questioning, appeared before Magistrate Adia Mohammed.

Duke is alleged to have made the seditious remark on November 16 last year on the compound of the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).

The prosecution said while it would not object to a bail application made by Duke's attorney John Heath, it was concerned that Duke may continue to commit offences while on bail.

Citing Duke's pending matters of rape and indecent assault in Trinidad and one count of disorderly conduct in Tobago, the police prosecutor said he was not sure what bail stipulations to place on Duke given his status as leader of the PSA.

Duke was granted bail and is expected to return to court on December 13.

Heath later told reporters that while his client is mentally strong, he is unwell and is expected to be re-admitted to the Port of Spain General Hospital following his release on bail.

The National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), which Duke heads, said it would be moving to the High Court to contest the constitutionality of the Sedition Act.

NATUC general secretary Michael Annisette, a former legislator, said that the Act dates back to pre-colonial era.

National Security Minister, Stuart Young, who told reporters on Thursday that the government has no immediate plans to amend the existing legislation, also denied allegations that the Keith Rowley administration had prior knowledge of Duke's arrest, saying it was entirely the work of the police.

Young also brushed aside claims that freedom of speech was under attack.

Under the Sedition Act, seditious intent brings hatred or contempt or excites disaffection against the government, the constitution, parliament or the justice system.


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