After being detained for over a week in Venezuela, 14 local Muslims—six women and eight children—returned to this country late Friday night.
The 14 detainees arrived at the Piarco International Airport from Caracas around 7.20 p.m. via a flight through Margarita.
The flight was originally scheduled to arrive at Piarco around 5.50 p.m. However, it was delayed twice, according to the flight/arrival information board in the airport.
Shortly after 7.20 p.m., the information on the board indicated the flight had arrived, and people who gathered in the departure area, anxiously awaited the return of their loved ones.
When about an hour passed and none of the women or children were seen, their relatives were becoming visibly anxious. The situation became more worrisome for relatives when passengers on the same flight which brought the 14 detainees, were seen exiting the departure area and meeting friends and family.
A little before 10 p.m., the 14 women and children were seen collecting their baggage and talking to Customs officials inside the airport and a short while later, they came out to the flashing lights of photographers and cameramen, as reporters attempted to speak to the them.
However, most of the women ignored the media and hustled the children into a waiting silver panel van saying only, “Not now.”
They said they were “treated fine” while they were detained in Venezuela.
Relatives of some of the families who were waiting told the Sunday Express under the condition of anonymity that the women were instructed not to engage with the media, as it was feared by National Security officials they may say something which could negatively affect the ongoing tribunal in Caracas against eight Trinidadian Muslim men, including three imams.
The Sunday Express was also informed the women told officials that they had been “fed and given basic treatment”, during their stay.
At the airport, a group of Venezuelan nationals gathered at the departure gate holding several signs, showing their support for the 14 detainees.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Ruth Albonoz, noted the decision was made to come to the airport to stand in solidarity with the detainees, as they believed they had unjustly targeted and held them against their will.
“We came out today to show our support for these people who were held against their will and we are saying very clearly that the Venezuelan government has violated your rights, your rights as people, as Trinidadians, who were there for your own reasons.
This is what we are claiming that the Venezuelan government is doing to its people right now. They are taking everybody and anybody they want and doing so many wrong things. So we are here supporting these mothers and children and we know when they come we are going to respect them as human beings.
“We know that there are still eight men who are being held there for further investigations, and we are hoping that the Trinidadian Government takes this very seriously and gets involved because, according to Venezuelan law, I am advised, the sort of tribunal they are reportedly in it lasts for about 60 days.”