Social activists Mark Benschop and Freddie Kissoon were up to 11 am today still in police custody and from their cells at the Brickdam Police Station lockups they shouted that they were being victimized and punished by the government.
They were arrested yesterday near the overflowing city landfill where Benschop had conducted protests for days. It remains unclear if or when the men would be charged. This newspaper was told that one of their lawyers Nigel Hughes would be moving to the High Court later today to file Habeas Corpus proceedings.
Benschop who had managed to haul himself up to iron bars facing Brickdam shouted to persons on the road “we are here on a trumped up charge. They punishin we hey. They towed away my vehicle but it was parked in the corner.”
Benschop argued that their arrest is a clear case of victimization adding that he and Kissoon were only trying to stand up for the rights of residents who live around the city dumpsite.
He told this newspaper that he is baffled as to why they were being incarcerated for a minor traffic offence.
“This is a violation of our constitutional rights. We have done nothing wrong. The government is victimizing us. The Police Force is weak…”, Benschop shouted to onlookers.
He added that “this is downright political harassment”.
Several persons who were passing stopped to hear what was being said. Benschop revealed to those who could hear that he and Kissoon were on a hunger strike. “If we have to be weak we will. We have to fight for peoples’ rights”.
As he spoke, Kissoon could be heard shouting “Punishment! Victimization!” Benschop explained that Kissoon did not have a string attached to the iron bar like him so he could not haul himself up.
Meanwhile, Benschop said that there were no toilet facilities, running water or mattresses in his cell adding that some 100 persons were being detained there.
He said that some of the other prisoners were in the lockups for 72 hours. Benschop added that the situation in his cell is horrible saying that he has to sleep on the “cold, hard concrete” because there is no mattress. He noted too that his cell is filled with mosquitoes.
“This (the arrest of himself and Kissoon” is just the beginning of what is to come. We are on a hunger strike. They don’t want us to see no one”. Meanwhile Benschop’s wife Maria told Stabroek News outside the station that it appeared as though the police wanted to keep the men in the lockups for Christmas.
She questioned why her husband’s vehicle was towed away stressing that all “the papers in order. I don’t understand why they would keep it”.
The woman stated that she took food for Benschop but was not allowed to see or speak to him.
Benschop and Kissoon were outside the Le Repentir entrance to the overflowing dumpsite early yesterday afternoon. It was there that they were arrested. Benschop had blocked the entrance on several occasions in protest at the condition of the dumpsite and how it was affecting residents living nearby.