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No release for Jews

Detained sect fleeing to Guatemala

By Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

AN application for a habeas corpus writ to have nine members of a Canadian ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect released from detention in Trinidad and Tobago was yesterday dismissed by a High Court judge in Port of Spain.

Attorneys seeking the interest of the group’s members, which included six children, were denied the writ by Justice Vashiest Kokaram at the Hall of Justice, after the judge said there were a number of procedural defects in the application.

On Monday, the Lev Tahor sect members were detained at Piarco International Airport while en route to Guatemala. International reports state they fled Canada in November of last year. 

Several members of the religious group were scheduled to appear before a court in Chatam-Kent, Canada, on Wednesday when a decision was expected to be made concerning whether 14 Lev Tahor children were to be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.

The application for the habeas corpus writ was filed at the High Court on Wednesday evening.

Those being detained are Ester Hayon, 50; Azar Hayon, 59; Avrohom Dinkel, 22; Yeshivia Hayon, 15; Tehila Hayon, 13; Yehodit Nechama Soleimani, 16; Mariam Soleimani, 15; Shira Hayon, 11; and Moshe Yochanan, nine.

During yesterday’s hearing, attorney Farai Hove Masaisai, who along with Edvardo Martinez are representing the sect members, argued that their clients were being detained in unsanitary conditions, and were only allowed food on Tuesday night.

Martinez submitted that their detention at Piarco International Hotel was unlawful as they had not been charged with any criminal offence.

However, Justice Kokaram, in making his ruling, said evidence in the application was lacking. He said in Masaisai’s affidavit, the attorney pointed out that his clients were being kept in less than humane conditions, but there was nothing further in the affidavit to expand on this claim.

Kokaram also stated when a person is detained, to have a judge grant a habeas corpus writ, that person was required to prepare an affidavit and have it presented to the court.

In this instance, the judge said there was no evidence the attorneys were deprived access to their clients to have the affidavits prepared.

Also, with the involvement of children in the present case, the judge said their voices have to be heard as they needed to be protected.

“There is also nothing in the affidavit stating their purpose for being here. Were they touring? Before we ask why they are being detained, the question should be why are they here in the first place,” said Kokaram.

Attorneys Paul Isaac and Sanjeev Lalla represented the Office of the Attorney General.

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