Lawyer questions US immigration's holding men cleared by courtTuesday, December 29, 2020
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
ATTORNEY Bert Samuels says the continued detention by United States immigration officials of four Jamaican men held in October — after it was alleged that they were found with 150 gallons of liquid cocaine, despite being cleared by a Florida court — “could create a diplomatic crisis” between Jamaica and that country.
According to the attorney, the silence from Jamaica's attorney general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the plight of the men — who were initially detained for 73 days between October 11, 2020 and December 23, 2020 but who were acquitted and are now being held by immigration officials in that country — has been “deafening”.
“Judge Chris McAliley of the Southern District of Florida [US] District Court terminated the detention against all four Jamaicans on the basis that there was in fact no evidence of a find of cocaine and that instead, it was merely gasoline which had been misidentified as such, and ordered that the men be sent to immigration to be sent home to Jamaica. As a result, there were no charges whatsoever laid against any of the four men,” Samuels told a virtual press briefing yesterday.
“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 — who is a partner in the law firm Knight, Junor, and Samuels, which is representing the men — has, in the meantime, raised several questions which he said need to be answered by 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”.
He wants to know whether there will be an apology to the owner of the boat, his crew members and their family; an apology to Jamaica, a treaty State; and compensation for the loss of the vessel and its earning capacity — without their clients having to go through the expense of filing — and compensation for the virtual torture of Jamaicans and the tarnishing of their reputation on the false pretence that they were involved in a massive cocaine trade.
He also wants to know “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 Shiprider 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 stated further.
The attorney has since written to Jamaica's foreign minister seeking a response to the detention of the men and the actions being taken by the State to address the matter.
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