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Trinidad : Venezuelan discharged of drug affair

By Deceyon Exilus

Port of Spain, 11 May. 06 [AlterPresse] --- One of the five Venezuelans arrested and charged in connection with the $8 million drug and firearm bust on Monos island in August has been set free.

Venezuelan-born Edwin Javier Marval Rodriguez, 33, looked around the room confused, even as court interpreter Murchison Elie translated the decision by Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson to discontinue pressing the charges.

“You are free to go Mr Rodriguez; you have been discharged of these matters,” senior Port-of-Spain Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim told the Venezuelan on May 10, in the Fourth (A) Court.

The charges of drug trafficking and possession of arms and ammunition were dropped after state attorney Roger Gaspard informed Lee Kim yesterday of the DPP’s decision to discontinue the case against Rodriguez.

In an interview afterwards, fellow state attorney Nigel Pilgrim said he preferred if comments came directly from the DPP himself.

Rodriguez was charged along with Trinidadians Victor Sylvester, 30, and Shaheed Ali, 37, as well as Venezuelans Alonzo Valera, 35, Cesar Perrera, 35, Freddy Garcia, 34, and Darwin Gonzales, 24.

Antiguan businessman Ramon Jarvis, 46, of Jolley Harbour, Antigua, was also arrested and charged.

Following Rodriguez’s release, the four other Venezuelan nationals, through the court interpreter, claimed they had been kidnapped and brought to this country and therefore had no money to retain attorneys.

This, after Lee Kim commented on their lack of legal counsels.

However, while Gaspard said he wished to have on record the State’s readiness to proceed with the preliminary inquiry, Lee Kim noted that she had to seriously consider the position of the four men.

“This is a problem that will continue to rear its head as the law does not cater for them, they will have to either seek their own representation or the Court will have to ask for someone to represent them pro bono,” she said.

Six state witnesses-three police officers and three members of the Coast Guard Services were present in court yesterday.

Lee Kim also noted that the absence of Ali’s attorney Nathaniel King was proving to be a hindrance to starting the matter.

Ali was then asked by Lee Kim if he had spoken to King or if any of his relatives had been in contact with the attorney.

Ali’s parents stood up and said they had in fact spoken to King the night before and he said while he would not be at yesterday’s hearing, but would make all attempts to be at the next.

Attorney Ian Brooks said while he could, “in deference to the Court,” hold for King, he could offer no evidence on behalf of Ali, as it could prove to be a conflict of interest for his own client.

A critical Gaspard noted that King “ought to have had someone sent to properly hold for him so as not to affect the hearing.” In this regard he submitted that the matter not proceed.

A further complication arose when Sylvester’s attorney St Clair Douglas informed the court that he may have to hand back his client’s brief.

Douglas yesterday said he would most likely be away from Court for probably up to a month. Eventually he told Lee Kim that he would reserve his decision until after the next hearing on May 15. [ed gp apr 11/05/2006 11:20]