No lawyer present in court as —
Cop gives evidence against Len Small
By Theron Boodan
Behind closed doors and before a judge, a policeman gave evidence yesterday which was of such a sensitive nature in the Lenville Small detention case that not even his lawyer was allowed to hear the evidence.
The evidence was given by ASP Paul Rodriguez after which Justice Mark Mohammed decided to extend a detention order under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to hold Small without a charge for another 72 hours.
This was the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago’s legal system that an attorney was not allowed to hear live evidence against his client. The extended order will cease at midday on Monday. This means that Small, brother of top Jamaat al Muslimeen member, Lance Small, who is in a Florida prison serving a 12-year sentence for attempting to export guns to Trinidad, would end up being detained by police without charge for five days. Small is not being kept at a State prison, but is being detained at CID headquarters on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. Previously, police could not hold anyone longer than 48 hours without laying a charge.
To get around having to ask Small’s lawyer, Jawara Mobuta, to leave the court for Rodriguez’s testimony, the Chamber Court proceeded to hear that part of the matter ex-parte.
Shortly after midday yesterday, the first detention order issued by Justice Mohammed on Wednesday ceased to take effect and ASP Rodriguez applied to the judge to extend the order for another 72 hours. ASP Rodriguez had gone on affidavit saying why he wanted the extension, but the reasons were vague. In order to fully persuade the judge, Rodriguez had to give the evidence live in court.
Mobuta had failed on Wednesday to get Justice Amrika Tiwary to issue a writ of habeas corpus for Small’s release, and again yesterday. Hearing of the writ was listed to go at 1.30 pm yesterday, but after Justice Mohammed announced his decision to extend the detention order, the habeas corpus matter was adjourned to Monday.
However, Mobuta is expected to file a constitutional motion on Monday, seeking to have the Anti-Terrorism Act declared unconstitutional and the incarceration of Small illegal.
Mobuta had raised the matter before Mohammed yesterday, claiming that the judge had no jurisdiction to hear the matter since the Act itself was unconstitutional, he said. He also claimed that the continued detention of Small without charges is oppressive in law.
Gilbert Peterson SC, who represented the State with Senior State counsel Sean Julien and Neil Byam, reminded Mobuta that it was the wrong forum to debate the legality of the Act and that the full motion challenging it should be laid before a constitutional court.
On Monday, Mobuta will also go back before Justice Tiwary to hear his habeas corpus writ if the police seek to continue to detain Small.
Small, of Gonzales, was arrested last Friday night after police searched his home for arms and ammunition. Small was not at home at the time, and although no arms or ammunition were found, they reportedly found a "hit list" with the names of five persons with price tags on them — Attorney General John Jeremie, Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls, head of the Central Authority Department of the Attorney General’s Ministry David West, Douglas Mendes and Dana Seetahal. These five were involved in the extradition of Lance Small to Fort Lauderdale in 2004.
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