|April 16 2003
STATEMENT FROM BERNARD COARD
Imprisoned former deputy prime minister Bernard Coard has issued a statement on behalf of the 17 former government and military officials convicted for the 1983 murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.
Following is the full text of the statement:-
We, the members of The Grenada 17 hereby strongly protest the deliberate delay in commencing the hearing of our constitutional motion challenging the legality of our continued detention.
Our motion was filed on September 23rd 2002. And yet, to this day, our matter has not even been afforded a first hearing. This despite the fact that it has been scheduled on several occasions.
We view these cancellations as part of a strategy by the government, acting in concert with some judicial officers, to deny us access to the court to have our matter ventilated.
The following dates were scheduled, and then cancelled, for a first hearing of our Motion - a motion dealing with the issue of the freedom of the citizen: November 1st 2002, December 6th 2002, and February 27th 2003.
On each of these occasions, our legal counsel was informed at the last possible moment of the postponement or cancellation of the hearing; with flimsy reasons given on the first two occasions.
On the last occasion, the judicial officers in charge, at first contemptuously refused to give any reason for the cancellation of the hearing. All of these cancellations occurred despite the fact that a scheduled hearing of our matter on November 14th 2002, was postponed at the request of the State - with our agreement - to December 6th 2002, so as to permit the State to properly prepare its case; with the expressed understanding that there would be a speedy trial of the matter thereafter.
In recent days, they have changed their tune. Their new position is that there is no judge available to hear our case! This is in the context where Grenada presently has four (4) judges - more that any other island, and the most ever in Grenada's history!
To this day, therefore, no new date has been given for a first hearing of our matter! This comes against the backdrop of the following disturbing, and in some cases scandalous actions:
*The denial of permission to our legal counsel to visit the prison to interview us so as to enable them to take legal action on our behalf, including the present motion. It required the institution of the court action and the issuance of a court order for our lawyers to be able to see us.
*The action of the government acting in concert with certain judicial officers to defy the order of Justice Brain Alleyne in February 2002 for the forthwith release of three members of the Grenada 17. This matter was filed in June 2001. It was delayed and delayed. Finally it was heard on February 14th 2002 when Justice Alleyne issued his order.
*The reaction of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell to the decision of Justice Brain Alleyne. Prime Mitchell publicly denounced the ruling of Justice Alleyne. He stated that the court had no right interfering in the matter of the Grenada 17; and that the issue of our detention was a political matter to be determined by the Executive and the people.
*The desperate measure to prevent the freedom of three of the Grenada 17. The State, with the cooperation of the Judges of the Appeal Court, moved with astronomical speed to prevent the implementation of the order of Justice Alleyne.
Within hours of the order to free our three colleagues, the State obtained a temporary stay from the Court of Appeal over the telephone. This stay was granted without affording our counsel a hearing.
Within one week the Court of Appeal convened a full hearing of the application for the stay and extended the stay until the appeal was determined. However, having blocked the freedom of the three, it took another 9 months before the appeal was heard and a decision issued.
*The delay by the Court of Appeal in determining the relatively simple issue of an application for leave to appeal the case of the three to the Privy Council. It 1ook 3 1/2 months for the application to be heard. And to this date no decision is forthcoming on what should be a mere formality.
*All of the above leads us to one inescapable conclusion: That the spate of delays that we are presently experiencing in having our matter heard is in furtherance of the stated intention of the Government to prevent the court from hearing and determining the matter of the Grenada 17.
*The Grenada 17 strongly protest the effective denial of our right of access to the court. We will be asking our families and supporters to alert human rights bodies, governments and other interested agencies of the violations of our rights outlined herein,
*We call upon our Grenadian brothers and sisters to not allow political affiliation, outlook or ideology to cause you to lose sight of the broader and more fundamental issue involved here. When politicians can control and manipulate the court to have judges and judicial officers do their bidding, ultimately no one is safe.
Sooner or later, you yourself, or some member of your family, may end up receiving the same treatment. In fact, this has already begun to occur.
*We once more call upon the government to immediately cease its interference in the judiciary and allow the courts to determine our matter according to law.