The start of the trial of the accused in the 2008 Bartica massacre has been put on hold pending the outcome of a motion which the State has to refile for the matter to be transferred from the jurisdiction of the County of Essequibo to Demerara.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had previously filed a motion for the transfer of the matter to Demerara, but the accused persons were not served and not given a chance to respond.
Justice Roxane George on Monday afternoon ruled that the DPP has to refile the motion, serve it on the accused persons and, in keeping with principles of natural justice, give them an opportunity to be heard.
The judge ruled that these are prerequisites which must be satisfied before the matter can be transferred from the Essequibo district, from where it originated, and before the High Court in Demerara can exercise its jurisdiction over it.
These considerations were among pretrial legal issues which were raised before Justice George by the defence for resolution, thus causing delays in the commencement of the trial. After two delays caused by unresolved pretrial legal issues, the matter was tentatively set to begin yesterday. The latest development has, however, now caused the matter to be put down indefinitely, pending the outcome of the motion.
Mark Royden Williams, called ‘Durant Williams,’ Dennis Williams, called ‘Anaconda,’ Clebert Reece, called ‘Chi Chi,’ Michael Caesar and Roger Simon were committed to stand trial in 2011 for the murders of nine civilians and three policemen on February 17, 2008 in Bartica.
Additionally, the quintet was also arraigned on one count of terrorism, one count of unlawful wounding and three counts of break and enter and larceny. The trial of the men for these charges will be conducted subsequent to the murder trial.
The charges against the quintet stem from an hour-long attack at Bartica on the night of February 17, which was reportedly carried out by some 20 gunmen. The gunmen had attacked the police station first, killing three policemen and freeing prisoners. They then took the vehicle assigned to the police station and went on a rampage, terrorising the community and murdering the nine others.
According to reports, the gunmen arrived in the area by boat and departed in similar fashion, taking with them firearms they had grabbed from the police station and from a mining company.
Those who lost their lives were Lance Corporal Zaheer Zakir and Constables Shane Fredericks and Ron Osborne, who were stationed at the Bartica Police Station; Bartica residents Edwin Gilkes, Dexter Adrian and Irving Ferreira; Deonarine Singh of Wakenaam; Ronald Gomes of Kuru Kururu; Ashraf Khan of Middlesex, Essequibo; Abdool Yasseen; Errol Thomas of Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo; and Baldeo Singh of Montrose, East Coast Demerara.
The attack on the Bartica community came amidst heightened security across the country following the slaughter of 11 people at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara three weeks earlier.