Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell
By Artesia Davis
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- A prominent attorney said on Sunday he will seek to have Bahamas foreign affairs and immigration minister Fred Mitchell committed to prison for contempt of court over his statements on the court-ordered release of two Cuban nationals.
Fred Smith, QC, represents Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara Marin, who were held in prison without charge for almost three years.
Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs issued a writ of habeas corpus, which was not contested by the prosecutor on February 18.
After the court’s decision, Mitchell classified Pupo and Marin as “a national security risk”.
He said, “I have asked for an investigation then into how a court was persuaded that two people that the government believes with cogent evidence are a security risk.”
Smith, the president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, on Sunday characterized Mitchell’s response as a “scandalous abuse of the minister’s voice against the court”.
He added, “In fact, it is a contempt in the face of the court for him to say that the Supreme Court is going to be investigated.
“On behalf of my clients, I propose to file an application to commit Minister Mitchell for contempt of the Supreme Court.
“It is scandalous of him to make such a statement about a case, which the government’s own lawyer conceded.”
Smith said, “The Bahamas is not Guantanamo Bay. Holding people in excess of 48 hours without charging them is simply illegal, and Mr Mitchell has been in the past, before his Cabinet appointment, a human rights activist and he seems to have completely lost the plot.
“The judiciary is the one check and balance on the executive, and it is highly disrespectful, it brings the administration of justice into disrepute and it devalues the rule of law for Mr Mitchell to make these statements against the Supreme Court.
“Mitchell can’t on the one hand expect people to respect the law and on the other hand for the government to disrespect the law.
“Mr Mitchell’s Cabinet portfolio is a very powerful one and I urge him to be more circumspect and to be careful and more responsible in his emotional reactions.”
Smith said that the minister’s statements would be pleaded in his clients’ lawsuit against the government for aggravating and punitive damages.
Mitchell, he said, would also be named as a defendant in that suit, as a private citizen.
“If these gentlemen have committed an offence, then the police or other authorities should take action, but we have no political crimes in The Bahamas,” he said.
“It is not an offence to be considered a national security threat. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“...The things Mr Mitchell says now will be pleaded by way of aggravated damages and punitive damages in the lawsuit that is to be filed against the government, and Mr Mitchell will be named personally as a defendant because he is abusing his political power, and he knows better as a former human rights activist, who worked diligently with me, Maurice Glinton, QC, and many others in decades past to protect people’s rights.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian