PEACEFUL PROTEST: Muslim women and members of the Muslim Social/Cultural Foundation hold a peaceful protest outside the Venezuelan Embassy, Victoria Avenue, Port of Spain yesterday. They are appealing to President Anthony Carmona or Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to intervene on behalf of the eight men who are imprisoned in Venezuela on suspicion of being terrorists. The men were detained two weeks ago. —Photo ROBERT TAYLOR

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Ishmael appeals to President, PM:

By Michelle Loubon

Chairman of the Muslim Social and Cultural Foundation Inshan Ishmael has said he is appealing to President Anthony Carmona or Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to intervene on behalf of at least eight Trinidadian Muslims who are currently in the custody of the Venezuelan intelligence service (SEBIN)   Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional), under the suspicion of being terrorists. 

Persad-Bissessar is attending the World Economic Forum in Panama, Central America. She was due to return home last night. 

 Yesterday about 100 peaceful protestors including Wazim Daniel, former councillor of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation and Imam Taulib Searles, a member of Enterprise Community Masjid and Hajj Umrah tour operator staged a protest outside the Venezuelan Embassy (opposite Balisier House), Victoria Avenue, Port of Spain. Some of the  placards were written in Arabic and English. 

They carried messages like “Free Our Muslims Now in Venezuela,” “We Want Justice For All Our Brothers” and “Leaders Must Show Concern,” “Blow Your Horn Support Our Citizens” and “Free All Our Muslim Brothers in Venezuela.” 

 Ishmael said: “Muslims are being discriminated against.  We are asking the President (Carmona) to intervene and secure the safe release of these men. We cannot pronounce guilt on anyone.” 

 Ishmael added: “Our hope is they can come back home. And settle down. They are getting depressed. Venezuela has the worst prisons in the world. It does not matter whether the person is Hindu or Muslim. Suddenly if you are Muslim, you are a terrorist. We have been compromised.”

 He said it was important for Carmona to have a tete-a-tete with Venezuelan president Nicolas  Maduro.

He said: “Venezuela does not listen to the United States. Any presidential to presidential contact will be of value. There must be a line of communication between our President (Carmona) and the Venezuelan president (Maduro).” 

He had a word for Persad-Bissessar.

“The biggest question is where our citizens are. No other country is more important.  We just want to do what is in our power to ensure these innocent men are not set up. He said innocent men are being                                       targeted.

 Daniel said: “Some of the men who are held have no running water. One mattress for 15 people to sleep. They have to urinate and defecate in front of each other. They are kept in the same room with other men. There are inhumane conditions.” 

Daniel said the women who were sent back to Trinidad last Friday were afraid to give interviews. Some of them have even temporarily relocated because of safety concerns.

Jibreel Yusuf said: “We are appealing to the leaders to do whatever they can for the Muslim brothers. While they are silent, the families are in limbo.” 

Meanwhile, well-placed intelligence sources in Venezuela confirmed the arrests of the Trinidadians, along with two other non-nationals at Plaza Hotel, in Sabana Grande, Caracas. The arrests followed a daytime raid in March. The Trinidad group includes three imams who have maintained their innocence.

The imams claimed they were not connected to any group and they had come to Venezuela to secure visas at the Saudi Arabian consulate for Trinidadians who were going to the Hajj. 

 Efforts to contact Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran were futile. But a well placed source said he was in Cabinet. He was expected to make a statement on the matter today, the source said.

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