Friday, February 23, 2018

Last 3 imams return today

 Three local imams who have been detained by Venezuelan au­tho­ri­ties for suspected terrorism are scheduled to return home today.

The men are the last of a group of 17 Trinidadians taken into custody by the Venezuelan intelligence service or SEBIN (Servicio Bolivariano de Inte­ligencia Nacional) in March after military-style uniforms, bullet-proof vests and jihadist videos were allegedly found in their hotel room.

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

On March 29, 14 women and chil­dren who had also been detained returned to Trinidad after a harrowing week in Venezuelan custody. 

In a statement this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, whose ministry had been leading nego-

tiations to secure the imams’ release, said the men were freed last Tuesday. 

“During the period of their deten­tion, the ministry, through the T&T Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, made every effort to visit the imams and ensure their safety and well-being,” the statement said.

Dookeran said he had spoken with local diplomats serving in Venezuela to ascertain the imams were in good health and spirits and had been well-taken care of while in custody.

The ministry said while all diplo­matic avenues were pursued to secure the

timely release of the detainees, it was also

necessary to ensure the laws and pro­ce­dures of Venezuela were fully respected and due process was allowed to take place, in accordance with these laws.

The imams’ flight is expected to touch down at Piarco International Airport today at 11.20 a.m.