By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE CUBAN military officer being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre has been classified as a refugee by the United Nations, according to legal counsel for the detainee yesterday.
Lawyer David Alvarez confirmed to The Tribune that he is also in talks with a US federal agency, which has requested the approval of the Bahamas government to interview his client Mayor (Major) Ortelio Abrahantes.
After more than five months at the detention centre, Mr Alvarez said his client was optimistic for a possible resolution to the “political tug of war” over his life.
“It has been very frustrating,” he said, “it seems like he’s in a political tug-of-war, and he’s caught in the cross fire of what I’m trying to do, which is save his life, and the Cuban officials. He has a lot of information, sensitive information that may be of interest.” Mr Alvarez said: “the Bahamian government is in the middle of this, I know they have a relationship with both American and Cuban officials.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that he had “no comment on the matter.”
Mr Abrahantes is said to be an officer of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, who has defected with sensitive information involving operations conducted by the Cuban government.
According to reports, Mr Abrahantes was taken to the Bahamas on March 27 after a sail boat he was aboard was intercepted by the US Coast Guard.
Requests for assistance from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) have been successful, according to Mr Alvarez, who said the agency has submitted their recommendations to the Bahamas government.
“(UNHCR) said my client classifies as a refugee and should not be sent back to Cuba for his own safety and in compliance with international law. They are also going to start asylum proceedings.”
Calls placed to UNHCR representative for the Bahamas, Katie Tobin, were not returned up to press time.
The claims were first reported on Miami-based news network Television Marti (TV Marti) last month. It was suggested that if deported, Mr Abrahantes will be court marshalled and could face execution by firing squad or a long-term prison sentence.
Yesterday, Mr Alvarez said he met with representatives from a US federal agency, the name of which he said he’d been asked not to disclose, last Wednesday in Nassau.
He met with Mr Abrahantes at the detention centre on August 27.
Mr Alvarez said: “They (US) are looking at the case, they want to meet with him but the hold up is that they keep postponing the meeting. I am hoping to meet with my client and those representatives next week at some point. As soon as the Bahamian government gives the go-ahead to interview him.”
Mr Alvarez said that he believes that his client has been treated “okay” at the facility because of the political pressure and media exposure. “He’s doing well, he has his hopes up,” he said.
“I’ve been keeping him up to speed and he knows about this potential meeting coming up. At the same time, he’s very concerned about his safety and for his wife and his daughter who are still in Cuba.”