Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement officials yesterday handed over the nine members of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish Group Lev Tahor to Canadian law enforcement and immigration officials at the Piarco International Airport for their return to Canada.
But members of the group of men, women and children did not all go quietly.
One elderly man had to be carried by law enforcement officials while another, a screaming female, had to be pushed by two women police officers into a waiting 25-seater bus to be taken to the airport.
Shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday, the group which had been detained in Trinidad since last Monday, was escorted on to a small chartered aircraft by officials of the National Operations Centre (NOC) Port of Spain and the Northern Division Task Force.
The Lev Tahor members are at the centre of a legal matter in Canada involving some 14 children who are the subject of a child protection order in the province of Quebec, Canada. The order awarded custody of the children to the Department of Child Protection in Quebec.
That decision was appealed by the Jewish sect, but the Court of Appeal of Ontario, on Friday dismissed the appeal and confirmed the court order.
The nine members left Canada and were trying to get to Guatemala when they were detained in Trinidad.
Around 4.30 p.m. yesterday two buses, a large 25-seater and a 12-seater, were parked behind the Piarco International Hotel off BWIA Boulevard.
Present were several heavily armed officers of the Northern Division Task Force.
At 5.25 p.m., screams were heard.
An elderly bearded man was the first to be extracted from the hotel.
He was carried and placed in the back of a grey Suzuki Gran Vitara vehicle.
He yelled at the officers in a foreign language as the officer kept telling him, “Sir, please co-operate with us. Sir, calm down and co-operate with us.”
He continued putting up a fight with the officers until he was placed in the SUV.
Next was a middle-aged woman.
She screamed and two women officers were seen bringing her out to the bus.
The others seemed to co-operate and entered the bus to be taken to the airport.
Police sirens were then turned on and they sped to the old terminal of the Piarco International Airport. There they were placed aboard the small unmarked jet and flown out for their return to Canada.
The Sunday Express learnt that the Canadian law enforcement officials have no jurisdiction in Trinidad and Tobago and so were not allowed to leave the aircraft.
Instead the handover of the Lev Tahor members took place on the aircraft itself.
“It was a highly sensitive operation,” a senior officer attached to the National Operations Centre (NOC) told the Sunday Express.
Lev Tahor spokesman Avrohom Dinkel, 22, the only member who can speak English and the only Canadian citizen in the group, in a TV6 interview last Thursday claimed that the allegations against the sect in Canada were false and “anti-Semitic”.
A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) yesterday stated that while Trinidad had detained some members, other members of the families who connected to Guatemala through the Mexico City airport on an earlier flight made it to their final destination.
The decision to escort the group back to Canada, yesterday followed a series of high level meetings with officials from the Ministry of National Security and their Canadian counterparts as recently as Friday night, when plans were finalised to have the Jewish members returned to Toronto, Canada, their point of origin.
Last Monday, the group consisting of six children and three adults arrived at Piarco at 5 p.m. on board a WestJet flight, intransit to Guatemala, but members were detained and subsequently denied travel to Guatemala.
When Immigration officials interviewed the members “inconsistencies in their responses” were discovered according to a statement from the Ministry of National Security.
The group subsequently employed the services of local attorney Farah Hove Masai, who began advocating their concerns with the airline and Immigration authorities and appealed the immigration rejection order.
The members refused all efforts to return them to Canada.
Last Wednesday, Masai filed an application for habeas corpus, but on Thursday Justice Vashiest Kokaram heard the application on an “emergency basis” and dismissed it, clearing the way for the Lev Tahor members to be sent back. See Page 7.