Jamaicans arrested and detained in Haiti
By Joseph Guyler Delva
LES CAYES, Haiti (HCNN) -- At least 20 Jamaicans, arrested and detained months and years ago on suspected drug and gun trafficking charges, are still held in custody in Haiti in the southern town of Les Cayes, where they feel abandoned by their government and left without any legal support in the Caribbean country, they say.
The Jamaicans, who are scattered in different cells in the main prison in Les Cayes, denied any involvement in drug trafficking and each of them had a different story to tell about the motive for their presence in Haiti, while Haitian local authorities say they hold strong evidence against some of them.
"I got arrested but they did not find anything on me," Kenny Burton, 31, told HCNN.
"They found drugs in the area where I was and they blamed it on us," said Burton who was arrested on July 7 last year, together with another Jamaican colleague.
A first group of 15 Jamaicans were arrested over the past months and years in different coastguard and police operations, supported by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, while five other persons were apprehended at the end of last year during a police crackdown near the town of Aquin.
The Jamaicans remain in preventive custody while their cases are being studied by an investigative judge who has to issue a report in which he will order who should be released because of lack of evidence and who should be tried by the Haitian criminal courts.
Winston Richards, detained since August 18, 2012, said he was arrested while he was sitting in a yard on the island of Ile-A-Vache where he had been living for about five months.
"We've been locked up here with no lawyer to assist us and we don't speak the Creole language and our [Jamaican] government is not saying anything about our situation here," Richards told HCNN.
"We are Caribbean people, we are just trying to move around, man," he said.
A prosecutor in Les Cayes, Joubert Amazan, said his office provides mandatory and free legal assistance to the Jamaicans who do not have a lawyer to assist them when the investigative judge calls them for questioning.
"Some have a chance to be released, but some others are very deeply involved in illegal activities," Amazan told HCNN.
"Some have a lawyer, but for those who don't have one we commit a lawyer through the Bar Association," he said.
The wife of one of the detainees, Samantha Scarlett, who spoke to HCNN from Jamaica, called on the Jamaican government to intervene to make sure the case of her husband, Michael Dennis, as well as those of other detained fellow Jamaicans have the benefit of a fair judicial process.
"I think the Jamaican government should do something because there are Jamaican citizens who are in a very difficult situation in Haiti," said Scarlett.
"We need him [Michael Dennis] to come back home and we have a 16-year-old daughter who is so affected by the situation," she told HCNN.
Relatives of the detained Jamaicans seem very concerned when it comes to the fairness of the judicial process in Haiti, particularly when they know the English-speaking detainees do not have access to proper legal assistance in the French and Creole-speaking country.
A cousin of Winston Richards, Marcia Blair, told an HCNN reporter to extend her love and best wishes to her jailed relative.
"Please tell him we say hi, we love him and his family misses him," Blair said affectionately.
Some of the Jamaicans -- such as Hugh Wright (53), Grandville Barkley (41), Dennis Allen (54), Papa Salt (70) -- were arrested in connection with a case involving a quantity of marijuana and several guns recently discovered near the southern town of Aquin.
A fifth detainee wearing dreadlocks, who identified himself as Pierre Altidor, said he was Haitian but he could hardly pronounce a Creole word. Other Jamaican inmates said that his name was instead "Seal" and that he was Jamaican.
The 15 other Jamaican detainees are Junior Daily (32), Dean Dawson (27), Kenny Burton (31), Agustus Tuckre (53), Winston Richards (31), Roy Prince (55), Jason Smith (32), Michael Dennis (40), Linval Samuels (24), Garry Williams (30), Romaine Brown (18), Glenval Hall (37), Martin Trench (27), Othniel Williams (31), Richard Bryam (36).
A judge released a few months ago three Jamaicans -- Mark Reid, Fenton Johnson and Mark Pitt -- along with two Cubans, Juan Rafael Hidalgo and Alexis Leyva Moreno -- for lack of evidence after being held on drug charges for several months.