Tribunal urged to free Garcia

Attorney David Comissiong (right) leading part of his four member legal team out of the High Court. With him are Ajamu Boardi and Paula Jemmott.(EJ)

It’s now up to the State to convince the High court in Barbados that the continued detention of Cuban drug convict Raul Garcia is justified in law.

This afternoon, Number 6 Supreme Court Judge, Margaret Reifer, heard the closing arguments from Garcia’s attorney-at-law, David Comissiong who urged the tribunal to free his client because his near three-year detention by immigration officials, had far exceeded the period of reasonableness provided for by law.

Comissiong also submitted that this case was about the sole detention order signed on March 24, 2010 by the minister responsible for immigration with the exclusive purpose of deporting Garcia to the land of his birth, Cuba.

He suggested that when the State lawyer, Donna Brathwaite, makes her submission, she would most likely try to justify his client’s further detention by tying it to current efforts to conclude repatriation arrangements with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees by mid-December this year.

But the defence lawyer urged the court to reject such a position, noting that the deportation order had nothing to do with any entity called the UN High Commission for Refugees, only Cuba.

He relied on a variety of UK judgements in similar cases which fell on the side of the claimants and cited Section 22 (2) of the local Immigration Act to back his argument that a person who was being kept in custody for deportation, could only be lawfully held for such period as may be necessary to make arrangements for his removal from Barbados.

“The power of the minister is directly linked only to his (Garcia’s) deportation to Cuba,” asserted Comissiong.

He told the judge that it’s that deportation order and the two years and nine months the claimant had been in custody that “we are asking the court to determine the lawfulness of his continue detention”.

But Comissiong was of the view that at the core of the case was the notion Garcia’s release posed a threat to the Barbadian society, that he would flee the island and that he would commit other crimes.

The attorney listed flattering reports from various “experts”, including the head of custody at Her Majesty’s Prison at Dodds and Father Clement Paul, who was in charge of the Rehabilitation Programme at Dodds as proof that Garcia was a model prisoner.

Among the more telling positives about his client, he said, was evidence produced to show that prison authorities “were so confident about his character”, that they allowed him out on several occasions to mix in the community without any “special security” and to attend an event at the Prime Minister’s residence at Ilaro Court.

Comissiong also drew on the recommendations of the rehabilitation officials and prison authorities whose comments were read in court, describing Garcia as an outstanding inmate who influenced others to pursue positive things in life.

When the hearing resumes tomorrow morning at 11, the lawyer for the state will seek to show the court why immigration authorities were justified in their continue detention of Garcia, even though he had completed his 20-year sentence on cocaine trafficking charges almost three years ago. (EJ)

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