Detention orders for four out of 13 in T&T plot probe

(Trinidad Guardian) National Security Minister John Sandy says if sufficient evidence is not gathered pertaining to 13 detainees, who were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and three senior Government ministers, they will be released. He made the statement yesterday at a national security press briefing at the National Security Building, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.

Sandy said: “By the end of the state of emergency we should have enough information against the suspects. If not they will have to be released. Investigations are still continuing.” At the briefing, Sandy announced that detention orders for four of the detainees under the Emergency Powers Regulations of 2011 were signed yesterday. A legal source said the detention orders served on the four, accused them of being masterminds in the plot to overthrow the Government.

He said police investigations into the alleged plot were still ongoing and police were still gathering information. Sandy also refused to make public the names of the detainees until they were charged with a criminal offence. He said law enforcement officers were exploring the possibility of charging the men under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Sandy said the detention order documents were prepared and signed, after receiving advice from four senior counsel, including Law Association president, Dana Seetahal, and Israel Khan. He added: “Similar documents are being prepared in respect with the others so detained and according to legal advice received, other orders may be signed.”  The detention orders against the men are due to expire next Monday, in conjunction with ongoing state of emergency which was proclaimed on August 21 and is due to end on the same date.

The suspects were arrested at various times last week in locations across Trinidad by officers of the police Special Branch, Criminal intelligence Unit (CIU) and Defence Force officers. The T&T Guardian was reliably informed one such order was issued yesterday to a 47-year-old Central businessman who was arrested at his Enterprise, Chaguanas, business place last Monday.

A Islamic scholar of Freeport,who is said to have studied in Saudi Arabia, was also a recipient of such a detention order. Sandy said the orders were issued to the first four persons who were arrested in connection with the plot. He said: “Among those arrested are a serving member of the T&T Police Service, two former members of the T&T Defence Force and a former member of the T&T Coast Guard.

“As a former soldier, it grieves me to understand how someone who pledged to serve the State, to even give his life for the State, is now alleged to be involved in an act against the State.”  Sandy said he was informed of the plot on November 18 after it was uncovered by police intelligence officers. The plot was revealed by Persad-Bissessar at a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, last Thursday.

Last week, attorneys representing two of the men who were served with such orders yesterday, filed habeas corpus writ applications in the High Court. The applications sought to question their clients’ continued detainment. One such application was withdrawn last week when the matter was called in the High Court as the attorney was served with a notification of continued detention pending further investigations under Section 16.3 of the emergency regulations.

Two other applications, which were filed late last week on behalf of two of the detainees, are scheduled to be heard in the Port-of-Spain High Court today. The four detainees who were issued the orders were expected to be transferred to the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca, with the rest of the detainees being housed at various police stations across north Trinidad until orders were served on them.

Sandy confirmed that besides Persad-Bissessar the alleged targets in the plot were Attorney General Anand Ramlogan; Housing and the Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma. When asked by reporters as to the possible reason for Moonilal and Sharma being targets in the plot, Sandy said: “The linkage that was put forward is one minister is involved in CEPEP and the other in URP.” Sandy refused to confirm whether wire and telephone tapping were used by intelligence operatives to uncover the alleged plot.

“All options are being explored by law enforcement personnel,” Sandy said. He said the foreign intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), were contacted and were assisting in the investigations into the plot. Sandy added that he was confident that Persad-Bissessar’s security team would protect her sufficiently.

“Law enforcement operatives continue to be on high alert,” Sandy added. Sandy also appealed to members of the public to report any suspected suspicious activity to relevant authorities. Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, who also attended yesterday’s press briefing, said the matter was still being investigated and declined to divulge any information which he said may compromise the investigation.

 

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