Eight Cubans acquitted …”NO POLICE, NO CASE”

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Eight Cuban asy­lum seek­ers, who were ac­cused of il­le­gal camp­ing in front of the Unit­ed Na­tions build­ing in Port-of-Spain in De­cem­ber last year, have been freed.

The eight Cubans are Yaneisy San­tana Hur­ta­do, 37, Ra­mon Ar­bo­laez Abreu, 43, Ai­lys Ar­bo­laez San­tana, 18, Yusnes Reyes San­tana, 20, Gladys Lisan­dra Perez Moli­na, 22, Lisan­dra Far­ray Ro­driquez, 29, Pe­dro San­tana Maceo and 30-year-old Yuri­et Pe­dro­zo Gon­za­les.

Dur­ing a hear­ing in the Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trates’ Court on Friday, Mag­is­trate Sa­nara Toon-Mc­Quilkin dis­missed the charges against the group af­ter pros­e­cu­tors were not ready to be­gin the tri­al of the case, for the third time since Au­gust.

On Thurs­day, Toon-Mc­Quilkin was forced to ad­journ the case as po­lice pros­e­cu­tors said they could not start lead­ing ev­i­dence as they were still await­ing in­struc­tions from their se­niors.

At the start of the hear­ing, pros­e­cu­tors in­formed Toon-Mc­Quilkin that the po­si­tion did not change.

The group’s lawyer, Christophe Ro­driguez, im­me­di­ate­ly ap­plied for the case to be dis­missed.

As he point­ed out that the max­i­mum fine, if they are found guilty of the of­fence, is $200, Ro­driguez said: “The costs of com­ing to court all these times al­most ex­ceeds the po­ten­tial fine.” He al­so said his clients spent 19 days on re­mand while they were await­ing bail.

Toon-Mc­Quilkin agreed with Ro­driguez as she ques­tioned the de­lay in get­ting ap­proval.

Po­lice pros­e­cu­tors had pre­vi­ous­ly ex­plained that the po­lice of­fi­cers, who charged the group, took the file to the Com­mu­ni­ty Polic­ing Sec­re­tari­at in Feb­ru­ary but were turned away as they were in­formed that ap­proval from se­nior of­fi­cers of the di­vi­sion, where the of­fence was al­leged to have oc­curred, was re­quired.

The file was re­sub­mit­ted in Au­gust but has yet to re­ceive ap­proval.

“I don’t un­der­stand why it would take so long for that com­pli­cat­ed process to be com­plet­ed,” she said as she stat­ed that she was shocked by the in­abil­i­ty of the po­lice to rec­ti­fy the is­sue be­tween Thurs­day af­ter­noon and yes­ter­day morn­ing.

She not­ed that the po­lice of­fi­cers and their wit­ness­es in the case had at­tend­ed all hear­ings and were pre­pared to give ev­i­dence.

“It al­most feels like their ded­i­ca­tion is for noth­ing,” Toon-Mc­Quilkin said.

The eight were part of a larg­er group of 18 Cubans, in­clud­ing three chil­dren, who de­cid­ed to camp out­side the UN Of­fice at Chancery Lane in Port-of-Spain as they bid for re­set­tle­ment in the Unit­ed States as po­lit­i­cal refugees was be­ing con­sid­ered.

They claimed that they fled Cu­ba in 2016 as they were per­se­cut­ed by that coun­try’s com­mu­nist regime for a se­ries of paci­fist protests.
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