PHILIPSBURG–Three crew members from a sailing vessel from Dominica who were detained by the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM on October 3, 2019, on suspicion of human-trafficking, claim their lives have been in danger, as they said they were kidnapped and their relatives asked for ransom, while they were held in pre-trial detention in the Pointe Blanche prison.
Suspects E.B.C. (42) and M.M.M. (37) informed the judge about their misfortune during Wednesday’s pro-forma hearing in their cases.
Together with defendant M.J.B. (24) they are suspected of having tried to smuggle 14 illegal migrants from Haiti on board sailboat Solitude, which was docked at the pier near Walter Plantz Square without first clearing Customs and Immigration.
According to lawyers Geert Hatzmann and Marlon Hart, their clients C. and M, respectively, had been threatened with weapons and pushed into a cell where their lives were threatened, without any interference from prison guards, on November 2, 2019.
Hatzmann said his client had been held for hours, during which time one of the defendant’s sisters was also threatened and urged to pay a ransom. The lawyer said his client’s life had been in danger, which, he said, should lead to his client being able to await his trial in freedom.
Hart filed also filed a request to lift or suspend his client’s pre-trial detention. He said his client had been transferred from the Pointe Blanche prison to the police cells late December 2019, but staying in the police station is “no pleasure” either and “the wrong place” to be held in pre-trial detention.
The suspects, who are all nationals of Dominica, told the judge they feel traumatised by the incidents and said the Pointe Blanche prison is no safe environment.
The Prosecutor confirmed that the defendants had filed a complaint pertaining to deprivation of liberty and extortion within the prison’s confines. She said the case had been investigated by the police. Several detainees were questioned and arrested. According to the prosecutor, no decision has yet been made to prosecute the suspects and present their cases in court.
The prosecutor stated that the alleged kidnapping should not have any bearing on the pre-trial detention of the human-smuggling suspects, who should in her eyes remain behind bars until the next hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday, February 5.
At the end of the hearing, the judge said he had not been aware of the kidnapping. Before drawing any conclusions, he requested a report from the authorities about the incident, as well as statements by the two suspects/victims. In the meantime, all three suspects are to remain in preventive custody.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.facebook.com/heraldsxm/photos/a.1251060041587810/3383578395002620/?type=3&theater