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Trinis hold marathon talks in Caracas

Local Muslims accused of terrorist activities in Venezuela...

By Mark Bassant CCN Senior Multimedia Investigative Journalist

The Trinidadian delegation who landed in Venezuela yesterday mor­ning were locked in a marathon session all day into late yesterday eve­ning with Venezuelan authorities as they sought answers involving the detention of 19 Trinidadian Muslims.

The delegation, headed by Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall, arrived in the capital Caracas on a “fact-finding mission”, in relation to the reported detention of the Trinidadian Muslims who were held last Wednesday by El Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SE­BIN)—the Venezuelan Intelligence Service—as suspected terrorists.

Sources told TV6 News the four-man delegation was picked up by officers from SEBIN at Simon Bolivar International Airport when they touched down shortly before 9 a.m.

They later met up with Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador to Venezuela Anthony David Edghill and military liaison officer Colonel Michael Clarke, who all formed part of the delegation who met with Venezuelan authorities.

Eight of the Trinidadian Muslims, including three imams accused of terrorist activities, ap­-

peared at the Anti-Terrorist Tribunal Court in downtown Caracas on Wednesday after they were held in a raid toge­th­er with Trinidadian wo­men and children at the Plaza Hotel.

Intelligence sources say military uniforms and what has been des­cribed as jihadist videos and US$102,000 were seized during the raid.

The men, after the tribunal hearing, were remanded into custody, pending a 60-day period for investiga­-

tion—as mandatory law states. 

They were all taken to an undisclosed jail in Caracas.

A high-ranking intelligence source in Venezuela informed the Express and TV6 News that following the 60-day period of investigation, if the men are charged and found guil­-

ty, they can face up to 25 to 28 years in prison.

The men were held without a warrant at the hotel, sources say, because of the state of emergency now existing in that country.

Two senior sources in Venezuela told TV6 News they believe “the three imams were in the wrong place at the wrong time” and have received several requests from Muslim orga­nisations in Trinidad to have the imams released.

Sources told the Express and TV6 News the five women and six children had been expected back in Trinidad today, but Venezuelan law enforcement authorities later released them into the custody of Immigration, who are yet to determine whether they will be allowed to stay in Venezuela or deported back to this country.

Kelshall, who spoke on the telephone briefly with TV6 News shortly after 2 p.m., said, “It is too premature to say anything until later in the evening.”

Numerous calls to his cellphone up to press time went unanswered.

Another intelligence source in Venezuela later told TV6 News the men were still in a lengthy discussion with the Venezuelan authorities and were expected to overnight as they were seeking accommodation at a hotel in downtown Caracas.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran yesterday indicated with the volatile situation existing in Venezuela at the moment, “soft diplomacy was required”.

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