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‘Dudus’ gets his day in court

BY PAUL HENRY Observer staff reporter henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010    

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FORMER Tivoli Gardens don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke will appear in court today for a heavily resisted hearing into the request for his extradition to the United States.

Coke is expected to waive his rights to the extradition trial, and should this happen, he could be in the hands of US marshals and off the island before the weekend to face drug and gun-trafficking charges, Observer sources said.

For security reasons, today’s hearing will be held at the headquarters of the elite Mobile Reserves along Camp Road in Kingston.

The hearing date was set yesterday following an early morning meeting with senior officers of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn.

“The hearing is set for Thursday,” Llewellyn confirmed, but declined further comment when contacted by the Observer.

Coke has seemingly dispensed with the legal team who earlier represented him against the attorney general, opting for attorneys Tom Tavares-Finson and George Soutar.

Attorney Paul Beswick, who previously worked alongside Don Foote for Coke, confirmed that he would not be part of today’s extradition proceedings.

“I will not be in court tomorrow and I will not participate directly in the extradition hearing,” Beswick told the Observer last night.

Meanwhile, Tavares-Finson was able to report last night that Coke was in good spirits and was looking forward to today’s proceedings.

“He has been treated with the greatest of respect and fairness by both the police and military and he’s in good spirits. He is looking forward to tomorrow’s (today) hearing,” said Tavares-Finson.

The hearing which is expected to draw national and international attention, will be held under an unprecedented security blanket, but journalists will be allowed in to relay the proceedings to the country.

However, the media will be managed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force which has asked the umbrella Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), which represents professional journalists, to convey details of the arrangements for the coverage.

The special conditions called for:

• one representative per media house inside the courtroom;

• no audio or video recording and still photography inside the courtroom;

• media representatives must be attired according to “courtroom decorum”;

Coke’s appearance in court will come two days after he was arrested along the Mandela Highway near Ferry, St Catherine on Tuesday while reportedly heading to the American Embassy in Kingston to turn himself in.

Coke, who was being driven by controversial preacher Rev Al Miller, had managed to elude a nationwide dragnet set up by members of the security forces.

His capture came as an anti-climax to the four-week manhunt in which police put an initial bounty of J$1.7 million on his head, then upped it to $5 million.

Since his capture, there has been speculation about whether the $5 million had been earned by anyone. However, the police have been tight-lipped on the matter.

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