PORT OF SPAIN –– The family of one of the five T&T nationals detained in Venezuela since March 2014 has appealed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for an urgent meeting concerning the detainees.
In a letter on Monday seeking the meeting, Saadiqua Mohammed, wife of detainee Dominic Pitilal, told Rowley:
“On the eve of the passing of one of our former prime ministers, Mr Patrick Manning, many great things can be said about him but the greater picture is that we will assume position and one day we have to leave it but the question is how are we going to leave?
“Are we going to depart with dignity and grace or otherwise? As a small voice from within the Muslim community I am asking you to allow your legacy to live on among the Muslims as a prime minister who stood for justice, despite race and religion.”
Islamic Front leader Umar Abdullah who has launched an appeal for Muslims to campaign to get the detainees freed, revealed Mohammed’s request.
The four other T&T nationals—Asim Luqman, Andre Battersby, Wade Charles and Lesley Daisley—were detained in Venezuela in March 2014 on suspicion of terrorism.
Following a May meeting between Rowley and Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, Government asked Venezuela to expedite the issue concerning the men. The terrorism charges were subsequently dropped but the men were put on two charges of intent to commit espionage and to commit a crime.
Abdullah said they went to court around early July but there had been no headway. The men were not pleading guilty to the two charges, he stressed. Families of the men, initially buoyed by the T&T/Venezuela meeting, had expected their release but are now dispirited at the new charges.
Pitilal’s wife, Mohammed, in her letter to Rowley, added:
It’s been two years and four months they were incarcerated without charges. I’m pleading with you to have a brief meeting with the family members of these men so we can further discuss what is Government’s next move in securing the release of our citizens.
“We are aware of the May 2016 meeting with President Nicholas Maduro and yourself. You made a public announcement of the repatriation of prisoners. It has been two months now and we the family members are left in the dark as to what is the next move by the two governments. I am seeking this meeting with you so you can update and give us some sort of answers.”
Mohammed added: “We, the family members, have suffered a great ordeal with this unfortunate situation under the previous government, a glimmer of hope has shined on us, the family members, when you assumed office. Please do not allow that hope to turn into despair. I am eagerly awaiting a positive response from you.”