When the police came for him on the night of Friday May 9, Rajaee Ali was not surprised.
Ali, the 28 year-old son of Northwest leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen Imam Hassan Ali, was arrested while he was a guest at Palms Hotel, Arouca by the police for gang-related activities.
But Ali told the Sunday Express in an interview last Friday at a Carapo-based mosque where he is affiliated, he knew the police had actually detained him in connection with the murder of former independent senator and senior counsel Dana Seetahal and not gang-related activities.
Seetahal was assassinated just minutes after midnight on May 4, on Hamilton Holder Street, Woodbrook, while heading home from Ma Pau casino on Ariapita Avenue.
Clad in white garb following the Islamic midday prayer Juma’h, Ali explained he opted to stay at a hotel where cameras were installed because he knew he’d be arrested and wanted it recorded.
He said he was alerted by the Jamaat’s own intelligence community that he was the prime suspect.
“I was here whole week waiting for them to come and arrest me based on the news and the papers,” he said.
“They were talking about me so I was waiting,” he added.
Ali noted that the descriptions of “Carapo man” “Muslim man” and “man who escaped prison on a murder charge” all pointed to him.
In 2004, Ali was charged with the murder of Amadoo Huggins when he was just 18. He has spent eight years in prison. In 2007, he was one of three prisoners who escaped from the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca but was eventually caught and sent back and was released in 2011.
In the last year, he’s been managing the Carapo arm of the Ministry of Sport’s Life Sport programme.
When the Sunday Express sat down with him last Friday, he had just finished reciting prayers for his fellow Muslims, warning them of corrupting influences in society. He sat in a chair, barefooted and hunched forward during this interview. He smiled easily, recalling the events of the past which put him in prison and his recent detention.
He observed that in the week leading up to the arrest, police were seeing him almost daily because of the regular patrols they made in the area but no move was made to arrest him.
“People been telling me if they ain’t coming to arrest you, they’re coming to kill you,” he recalled nonchalantly.
He said the police who came to arrest him wore masks and did not have badges though they identified themselves as police. Ali believes it is the cameras at the hotel that forced the police to wear masks during their arrest of him.
“There was no talking, no badges. They take me away,” he said.
“The officers who dealt with me were more professional than the rest of the police I am accustomed to dealing with. They weren’t abusive. They said I was locked up for gang activities and everything they said was hearsay evidence,” he said.
“They see me in person and realise I am not the person they’ve been hearing about,” was Ali’s conclusion on why he was not interrogated about any link to Seetahal.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams has denied newspaper reports that Ali was held in connection with Seetahal’s murder but was one of several people detained during police exercises in Arima and Diego Martin.
“They kept me for two days. Went through interviews. They had nothing on me. I am not a leader in a gang,” he said.
But Ali says he is accustomed to being marked by the police. He said since he’s been out of prison, police have had him on their radar.
Asked why he’s become such a high-profile figure to the police, he attributes this to being the son of an Imam and being part of the Jamaat which is a negative from most perspectives.
“I can’t say. I am no saint. I grow giving a little trouble in the streets but I ain’t as bad as they say I is,” he said.
Referring to his arrest back in 2004, he said he was “young and innocent and I thought I can never get a murder case for something I didn’t do”.
“So through the interrogation I was laughing. The police (officer’s name called) was putting it to me I kill the man (Huggins). I didn’t kill anybody.
“I wasn’t observing what he was writing and he just said go back and sign this paper and go back in your cell. He gave me the paper to read first and I realised it was a statement confessing to murder. I said ‘Nah, me ain’t signing that.’ He sent me back to the cell, cussing, saying he would tie my foot, ‘you wouldn’t see outside for a while.’ Then I went on an ID parade and then I realise I get point out for murder,” he said.
Ali said five minutes after he was freed, police “had me lying down searching for guns and ammunition”.
In his view, the constant police surveillance around him is “because I am disobeying God.”
“If I start to obey then eventually it will stop. Eventually,” he said.
Sunday Express: “So did you kill Dana? Were you behind it?”
“So you have people on the streets, why can’t you find out who killed Dana?” the question was put to Imam Hassan Ali who was also present during the interview by the Sunday Express.
“I could but why help them? Look what they do my son,” said Hassan.
“We’ve helped them on the ground so many times, they don’t acknowledge us. They lost a gun. We help them. The minister of national security won’t know that. We contribute to resolve. They don’t acknowledge us,” he said.
Asked whether he is likely to be arrested again, Rajaee Ali responded: “It would probably happen again.”
“Anything happens in the Arima district, they come kicking down the door,” he smiled.