Thirty in custody over piracy attack

(From left to right in front row) are Surinamese ministers Lekhram Soerdjan, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries; Ronni Benschop, of Defence; Stuart Getrouw, Minister of Police and Justice; Guyana’s Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan and Guyana’s Ambassador to Suriname Keith George. (Starneiuws René Gompers Photo)

The Surinamese press yesterday reported that 30 persons have so far been arrested for the April 27 piracy attack off the Surinamese coast, which left three dead and 12 missing. These persons are all said to be Guyanese.

Suriname online news agency, Starnieuws, yesterday reported that Suriname’s Minister of Justice and Police, Stuart Faith, at a press conference, confirmed the 30 arrests.

It was also reported in the Surinamese press that a restriction which states that the detainees are not allowed any contact with the outside world, including their lawyers, was issued for the suspects. It was stipulated that the ban can last a maximum of fourteen days.

Stabroek News was told yesterday that officials in neighbouring Suriname believe that 13 of the persons in custody are prime suspects, as they may have had a direct hand in carrying out the attack, and most of their names were provided to authorities by survivors of the event.

Over the weekend, several other persons were held and questioned in Suriname, following which they were deported to Guyana, on account of not possessing legal documents. Also present at yesterday’s joint press conference with Minister Faith, were Guyana’s Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, Suriname’s Minister of Defence, Ronni Benschop and their Minister of Agriculture, Lekhram Soerdjan.

Starnieuws reported that Minister Ramjattan and Minister Soerdjan disclosed that help was coming for the affected families of the fishermen.

Meanwhile, Commander of B Division, Lyndon Alves, told Stabroek News that the three men who were initially arrested locally are still in custody for questioning.

When this newspaper questioned Alves as to whether the men were likely to be released on bail, he said, “For now they are in custody”.

The commander also noted that the men are continuing to claim that they are innocent.

Alves yesterday noted that investigators were awaiting the overseas team’s return with whatever information they have received from the Surinamese authorities to determine the way forward.  He noted that the arrests of the three men in Guyana were based on information from the police in neighbouring Suriname.

The country’s Deputy Crime Chief, Michael Kingston, and B Division’s Deputy Commander, Wayne Dehearte, also accompanied Minister Ramjattan on his trip to Suriname over the weekend. On Sunday, the local fishermen in Suriname held one of the prime suspects at sea. After a thrashing, the fishermen handed the man, known as `Crackhead’, over to the authorities.

`Crackhead’, who was held at Commewijne, Suriname, was one of the first suspects to be named to investigators in Suriname. The suspect also reportedly confessed to the local fishermen that he was involved in the attack, but reportedly said that he and a group of men acted on instructions from someone.

The Surinamese source had previously told this newspaper that investigators were also speaking to close relatives of the boat owner who had been shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Suriname, on the 29th March, this year.

The Surinamese police’s initial theory is that the brother of the victim of the drive-by murder, had planned the attack as an act of revenge.  The brother is one of the persons being held in custody in Guyana.

According to reliable sources, investigators in Suriname are now working to find further evidence to support this theory, or to determine what may have actually caused the attack.

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