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Freedom’s coming

by Emmanuel Joseph

raulgartciaafreemanintwodaysAfter seven months of sometimes riveting court hearings, former Cuban drug convict, Raul Garcia will on Thursday, finally be freed from more than three years of immigration detention, that included two hunger strikes.

When Justice Margaret Reifer sat in chambers today in the presence of Garica, his lawyer David Comissiong, state attorney Donna Brathwaite and immigration officials, she adjourned the sitting for Thursday at 3 p.m., at which time she will tell the former convict which of two families he would be allowed to live with.

Last week, Justice Reifer concluded her intensive examination of the families — one from St. Michael and the other from St. John — who had offered their homes as Garcia’s new residence, once he was released from detention.

Today was also the first since the hearings started, that the Cuban had addressed the court.

Garcia’s attorney said afterward that his client was so overwhelmed by emotion, he had to cut short his comments to the judge.

Asked what were some of the things Garcia said, Comissiong replied: “Garcia spoke about his regret for taking the wrong path and talked about the death of his son in 2001, who died from a drug overdose.

“He also talked about the effect it [the death] had on him and the vow he made never to discredit the memory of his son by … falling back into crime,” recalled Comissiong.

He added: “When we came to the court today, I asked him if he wanted to say anything and he said yes. His address to the court lasted about five minutes. Throughout the proceedings, people were talking for him and about him; and today was the first time the judge heard from him personally.”

In her final decision, the judge will say if Garcia will live with the elderly husband and wife family or the female householder who had been proposed by Comissiong.

A third person will be responsible for monitoring the former drug convict’s living arrangements, noted Comissiong.

Judge Reifer is also expected to make other rulings related to the satisfactory living arrangements of Garcia, who had served 20 years for his crime.

As he left the court under escort by immigration officers, as was the case from the beginning, the ex-drug offender seemed relieved as he greeted one of the women involved in his new accommodation.

The case first came before the high court when Comissiong filed a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his client’s continued immigration detention was unlawful, and was a breach of his constitutional rights and freedoms, especially considering he had already spent his time in jail.

Towards the latter part of the hearing, the presiding judge concluded that Comissiong’s submission was well grounded and agreed that Garica could be freed. But state attorney Brathwaite asked the tribunal to accept the Government’s position that Garcia was a threat to national security and should not be released.

Brathwaite had also argued he should be kept in detention until the continuing process was completed for his deportation to a third country.

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