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Cops issue blank documents to hold citizens, say lawyers

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Lawyers for several persons jailed under the state of emergency have charged that blank detention orders are being presented before the Emergency Powers Review Tribunal, a practice they claim prejudices their clients' cases.

"What is alarming is that detention orders are being issued without any particulars - whether factual or evidential - to justify detention," fumed one lawyer who has appeared before the tribunal.

Well-known criminal attorney Bert Samuels agreed, calling it a "totally unacceptable state of affairs for a citizen to be held without reason.

"Where no reason has been put forward, it means there is an absence of justification," Samuels said.

"It is most irregular and against the constitutional rights of the person, who should only be detained on reasonable suspicion of some offence being committed," he added.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson offered a terse "no comment" when contacted by The Gleaner.

However, acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds pointed out that detainees are told why they are being held immediately as they are taken into custody.

Detainees' disadvantage

One lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, conceded that the Emergency Powers Regulation allows the minister to present the case directly to the tribunal, but argued that this puts the detainees at a major disadvantage.

"This denies the detainee the opportunity to provide documentary evidence to disprove what the Government is saying," said the attorney.

Samuels agreed, pointing out that adequate time to prepare a defence was guaranteed in the Constitution.

"I would expect that the state of emergency should not waive our constitutional rights," Samuels contended.

The Emergency Powers Review Tribunal was established to give detainees a chance to challenge their detention.

In each case, the tribunal hears arguments from lawyers for the Government and the detainees before making its recommendation to the minister of national security.

The minister can then decide to accept or reject the recommendation.

Chairman of the tribunal, Pamela Benka-Coker, told The Gleaner recently that several recommendations have already been sent to Nelson.

The majority of the detainees have been in custody for up to six weeks, having turned themselves in to the police shortly after the military incursion into Tivoli Gardens on May 24.

Among the high-profile detainees are Sandy and Leighton Coke, siblings of extradited strongman Christopher Coke, and deejay Vybz Kartel.

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