Cuban detainees Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara outside court. Photo: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff
By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LAWYER who yesterday argued for the immediate release of two Cubans who were unlawfully detained in prison for nearly three years criticised the authorities for the apparent hypocrisy concerning respect for the rule of law and due process.
Fred Smith, QC, rebuked the “Guantanamo Bay” trend of detaining persons indefinitely without trial or due process while speaking to reporters after Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs’ issued a writ of habeas corpus granting the release of Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara Marin from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).
Pupo and Seara Marin were returned to custody until the court’s order has been signed and formally issued for their release.
“The Bahamas is not a Guantanamo Bay,” Mr Smith said as he walked with his clients in Bank Lane.
“The Bahamas is a democracy. The Bahamas has a constitution. We are supposed to be respecting the laws and I call on the government, first and foremost, to respect the laws. The government cannot ask people to respect the law if the government does not respect the law first. You cannot hold people indefinitely in detention.
“So I’m very grateful to the Supreme Court for having released these gentlemen,” he added.
During the brief hearing that lasted 10 minutes, Mr Smith informed the judge of the circumstances behind the pair’s detention.
“In March 2013, Seara was arrest in Andros by officers of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Despite his arrest, he (has) yet to be brought before a court of law (for the charge).
“He was brought to Nassau and held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre. In July 2013, he was transferred to (the DCS) and initially held in the remand centre before he was placed in the maximum security section where he still remains today.”
Seara Marin had been in custody for 34 months.
Pupo, Mr Smith said, had been unlawfully held for 32 months following an arraignment in Abaco on a charge of illegal landing in May of 2013. Pupo had pleaded guilty to the charge and immediately paid the fine imposed on him by the court.
“At the request of immigration (officials), he paid for a return ticket to Florida. Instead he was taken to Nassau and detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre until in July 2014, he was transferred to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.”
Pupo was also placed in maximum security after a short stint in the remand centre, the court heard.
Franklyn Williams, deputy director of public prosecutions, said the Commissioner of Corrections Patrick Wright would not contest either application.
As a result, Senior Justice Isaacs ordered the release of the Cuban nationals and awarded legal costs to the applicants.
Mr Smith urged the government and law enforcement officials to stop disregarding due process and the practice of unlawful detentions.
“I beg my government, the Immigration Department and the police, to give everybody in the Bahamas due process,” Mr Smith implored after the hearing. “People should not be arrested, they should not be held and they should not be detained illegally.”
“The Bahamas is not Guantanamo Bay and so we cannot be holding people indefinitely. We cannot be holding people without charges. We cannot just be taking people out of the Carmichael Detention Centre and putting them up there (in prison) and holding them one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, without charges.”
“This is a good day. This is a day for constitutional rights, for freedom and for democracy in the Bahamas,” Mr Smith concluded.
Martin Lundy II, Alex Morley, Crispin Hall and Adrian Gibson also appeared for Pupo and Seara in yesterday’s applications.