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Venezuela charges 5 Trinis

Trinidad Express

Venezuela charges 5 Trinis

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FIVE Trinidadian nationals held in Venezuela over the last seven months on suspicion of terrorism have been charged with terrorism and criminal conspiracy.

The men are Dominic Clive Pitilal, 33; Andre Joseph Battersby, 56; Asim Luqman, 34; Charles Wade, 36; and Leslie Daisley.

If found guilty of the charges the men could face up to 25 years in prison.

The charges which were laid last Tuesday have come months after TV6 exclusively reported in early May in an investigative series titled “Jihadist Among Us” about the alleged activities of the men, documented in a secret intelligence document.

Speaking yesterday in a telephone interview, Ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago in Venezuela, David Edghill, confirmed that the men have been charged.

“It is correct what you have said about the men, and we are planning a consular visit to the men next Monday once we are given the necessary permission. We have actually tried to reach the detainees by phone as well but have been unsuccessful. We will offer as much consular assistance as possible, but cannot interfere with the court and the criminal charges,” Edghill said.

Intelligence sources in Trinidad and Venezuela also confirmed the charges and at least two State-owned newspapers published some details about the court’s ruling on Wednesday and Thursday.

The court in Caracas ruled on Tuesday that eight people arrested last April—including the five Trinidadian nationals—will stand trial for charges of terrorism and criminal conspiracy.

At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, prosecutor Jeimmy Navarro confirmed the indictment against the Trinidadians.

The indictment was also confirmed against Haitian-born Jules Joseph, now a naturalised Venezuelan, as well as Rafael José Durán from El Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) and Gregorio Socorro Montañez from the Bolivarian national police, for committing the crimes of conspiracy and treason.

The Trinidadians were held at Plaza Hotel in Sabana Grande in Caracas on March 19 of this year.

Officials from the SEBIN and immigration officers, who were investigating a case of illegal migration, had gone to the hotel to check the status of guests.
There, the officers from SEBIN searched the hotel rooms of the Trinidadians.

In the rooms, authorities allegedly discovered laptops, satellite phones, cellphones and clothing military type, which the State alleged were provided by the Venezuelan police officers Duran and Montañez to the other men. They also confiscated US$102,000 in cash and 66 passports.

The two policemen were allegedly training Trinidadians and Joseph in handling firearms of different calibres, the State had contended in their submissions to the court.

At least 22 Trinidadians were held that day, including women and children and three imams.

On May 18, Imam of the Montrose Mosque, Hamza Mohammed; Sheik Hassan Hamid from Las Lomas; and Abdul Salaam from Marabella returned to T&T after being detained in Venezuela.

The Imams told authorities they were not connected to the group and said they had gone to Venezuela to secure visas at the Saudi Arabian consulate for Trinidadians who were going to the Hajj pilgrimage.

On March 29, 14 women and children who had also been detained were released and allowed to return to Trinidad.

Minister of National Security Gary Griffith could not be reached yesterday for a comment. (Express)