AG prepared for lawsuits …”THREATS TO SUE”

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Some of the 13 persons detained over the so-called plot to disrupt Carnival, are planning to take legal action against the State.

But Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi, says the State is ready for the legal challenge that is to come.

Clint Rivers, one of the nine persons released by the police after being held for six days in connection with the threat to Carnival, will be pursuing legal action.

This was disclosed on Friday by his attorney Wayne Sturge at the San Fernando High Court, where the habeas corpus writ was declared spent as Rivers was released. Justice Ricky Rahim, however, ordered that the state pay legal costs.

Rivers was among 13 people arrested in connection with the so-called plot unearthed by the police. The details of what the threat entails have still not been disclosed by the police.

Rivers, however, was released on Thursday afternoon after his attorneys filed the writ. He was not in court yesterday.

The state, represented by Sasha Sookram, resisted the payment of costs. But Sturge, who appeared with attorney Alexia Romero, said they were entitled to costs. He said they issued two pre-action protocol letters on behalf of their client on Wednesday and also filed the writ. Sturge said Rivers was not detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act and was released around 3 pm shortly after being interviewed.

The writ was issued at 12.45 pm.

Sturge said Rivers was told by the police that he was not a suspect.

He added, “There must be some action because Mr Rivers was arrested on Saturday. He was not told the exact basis of his arrest.

When the lawyers attended at the police station and sought to obtain information as to the exact nature of contemplated charges there was no answer.”

“Yesterday when the court granted the writ of habeas corpus he was released after, but shortly before he was released he was interviewed and only during the interview did he learn that he was actually not a suspect, he was simply there to assist and see if he could provide information to assist them. If you are not a suspect then there is no basis for detaining you at all and if so for that lengthy period.

“And if you are not a suspect and you are assisting in inquires you should be told that you are free to leave, not to mislead the lawyers by your inaction and give the lawyers the impression he is being detained lawfully, because it is not lawful to detain persons if there is no lawful basis for so doing.”

Sturge said it appears there was no basis for his detention.

“If there is no basis we will have to file for false imprisonment.”

He said Rivers was also disturbed that during the interview by the police he was told he was red-flagged based on a false story by an investigative journalist that he was recruited as an ISIS fighter.

He added, “The story was to the effect that he had gone to Saudi Arabia and thereafter to Syria to fight with ISIS and that he did not return when there is actually footage from another media house that he had returned with the group who had gone to Saudi Arabia to attend Haj, so that false story, according to the person who interviewed him, is what caused him to be re-flagged because he was thought to be someone who had not returned at all and who had fought with ISIS and had only just returned which is false.”

A similar writ filed for Alicia Thomas, who was also among the 13 people arrested, was also withdrawn. Her attorney, Mario Merritt, said she was only charged on Thursday after the writ was filed.

She appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court on a firearm-related charge yesterday. However, Merritt said the lengthy time she was kept in custody before being charged showed no good faith and state has to explain why she was detained for so long.

He said the matter was adjourned to February 26 at Port-of-Spain Supreme Court to argue costs.

Meanwhile, Al Rawi said Government was bracing for a barrage of lawsuits by those who were detained.

He said several of the persons who were recently released without being charged by the police had signaled their intention to sue the State.

Despite this Al-Rawi defended the actions on the police in the ongoing exercises.

He added, “Law enforcement was well within their rights to take action as they see fit to detain, release and charge people, all of which has happened. So the position of what is to come next … there is due process in this country. Everyone is entitled to approach the courts.

“The State is prepared to deal with it. We will treat with it as it happens.”

Al-Rawi said his office will defend the claims “and we will take it there whether there was reasonable suspicion in detaining someone… it is not new for the court. These are easy matters for a court to decide upon.”

Al-Rawi said the habeas corpus applications that came up over Carnival season were denied.

“And therefore, the judiciary has already in part considered the reasonableness of continued detention of persons to assist with investigations.”

Having supervised the completion of matters on the arrest of throngs of people during the state of emergency which took place under the People’s Partnership government, Al-Rawi said: “I can tell you that those matters are still being worked out inside of the courts… some of them have resulted in money payments by the State not for the Anti-Gang Act but for false imprisonment or malicious prosecution where there was no evidence.”

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FARIS AL RAWI

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