Bahamas Bar Association president Elsworth Johnson
By Royston Jones Jr.
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Bahamas Bar Association president Elsworth Johnson on Friday joined calls for the attorney general to provide answers to lingering questions regarding the release into the general population of two Cubans previously held for three years at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services without being charged.
He also questioned why the Department of Immigration is now seeking to re-arrest Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara Marin, who have no legal status in The Bahamas.
“You don’t hold people for three years without charges, without sending anything, and expect results,” Johnson told The Nassau Guardian.
“... There is a way how you bring information to the court.
“If you don’t bring it to the court properly it is like going out in the public with no clothes on.
“The government is subject to the rule of law also.
“The government is not empowered to hold persons beyond the reasonable time without charging.”
In a statement last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said the men are “a national security risk” and ordered an investigation to take place into how the court was convinced to release them.
But Johnson said if the men were a risk to national security the government could have charged them with sedition, espionage or sabotage, for example.
“You should have formulated something, charge the men, put them before the court, and the court would have had something to deal with,” he said.
“That was not done. And so, now to sit and say the prosecutor got it wrong when you provided nothing, makes no sense to me.”
Attorney Fred Smith, who represented the Cubans, filed for their release.
Deputy Director of Legal Affairs Franklyn Williams, who appeared on behalf of Commissioner of Corrections Patrick Wright, did not oppose the application for the men's freedom.
Mitchell said in Parliament on Wednesday that he was “shocked” to find that the lawyers did not offer any objections to the writ and claimed that instructions were left for them to do so.
Johnson said the Department of Immigration had an obligation to present whatever information was needed to the Office of the Attorney General for charges to be brought against the men.
He said the department and the government failed to provide any evidence, and castigated the attempt to now re-arrest the men.
Johnson also said it is unfortunate that the prosecutor, whom he described as a first class, upstanding member of the bar, is being made a scapegoat.
“There was nothing presented to the court after a few adjournments, so the men were released,” Johnson said.
“If they thought these men had breached the laws of The Bahamas by entering into The Bahamas, they had three years to formulate charges under the Immigration Act.
“Nothing was done. If, as they (the government) said, they (the Cubans) had done certain things at the detention center, causing damage, they had three years to formulate charges, charge these men under the Penal Code.
“Nothing was done. If the government thought that the judge got it wrong, they could have filed an appeal – no appeals have been filed yet – and stay the judgment and keep the men in custody.
“They could have had immigration officers waiting for them.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian