Defence to proceed without full disclosure of state’s treason evidence

With the preliminary inquiry (PI) into the treason charge against army Major Bruce Munroe, his wife Carol Ann Munroe and ex-soldier Leonard Wharton set to begin next week, defence attorney Nigel Hughes yesterday said he would proceed despite not receiving the full disclosure of the state’s evidence.

When the case was called before acting chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Assistant Superintendant of Police Fazil Karimbaksh was due to lay over written submissions to the court from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), regarding whether it will tender audio-visual material evidence, which the defence requested.

Bruce Munroe

Attorney Nigel Hughes, who is representing Carol-Ann Munroe, at a previous hearing made the request for the material evidence to be tendered so that the defence could properly prepare itself for the commencement of the PI. Hughes, who read an excerpt from a copy of the  written submission laid over to the court yesterday, said that the prosecution in its submission is now contending that it is not in possession of any audio-visual materials. The submission, which the lawyer read, revealed that the police was only in possession of a voice recording. Hughes further said the prosecution was contending that that tape would be tendered if the court so desires.

Carol Ann Munroe

Hughes expressed surprise at the report, while reminding the court that the prosecution on the first occasion had made it clearly known that it was in possession of certain audio-visual material evidence that incriminated the defendants. “How can they [the prosecution] now claim that they have no such audio-visual material, when they said that they did on the first occasion?” he questioned. He added that the submission was supposed to have responded on the prosecution’s stance on having the mentioned evidence tendered and not to deliberate on what would be the court’s take on the issue. He said, “Again, the prosecution has failed to do what it was asked to do.”

Leonard Wharton

According to Hughes, the recording was played to the defendants while in custody but it had been edited. This, he argued, is an element of bias and can cause a miscarriage of justice.

He maintained that all evidence should be disclosed in a transparent manner to ensure that justice is served.

When asked about the special prosecutor, Hughes was told by Karimbaksh not to be afraid. “Don’t be afraid, Mr. Hughes. The special prosecutor will be present at court when the PI starts on Tuesday,” he said, while adding that the prosecution is ready to commence the PI and proceed with the case.

At this point, Hughes requested that the PI commence with or without a report on whether the evidence would be tendered by the prosecution. Although the Magistrate suggested that he await her ruling on the issue prior to the start of the PI, he said that the defence has been waiting in futility for far too long on responses from the prosecution.

A firm Hughes added that he is prepared to have the PI commence and the materials tendered at a later date. He stated that the defence is convinced that the prosecution’s case is “non-existent.”

Having granted the request, the acting Chief Magistrate informed the court that the PI will commence on February 15 as previously indicated.

It is alleged that between December 1, 2009 and December 16, 2010, at Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara, the Munroes and Wharton intended to level war within Guyana to force the President out of office, in order to compel the Government of Guyana to change its measures.