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Jewish sect refuses to leave

By NALINEE SEELAL and JADA LOUTOO Friday, March 7 2014

NINE members of the Lev Tahor Hasidic Jewish religious group led by Avraham Dinkel, who were rejected entry by Immigration officials on Monday night at the Piarco airport were yesterday coaxed to take up residency at the Piarco International Hotel until they could be returned to Canada.

Newsday understands that the group spent all of Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday at Piarco International Airport after refusing to stay at a hotel of their choice until arrangements were made to have them returned to Canada.

According to sources, just before midday yesterday they booked a room at the Piarco International Hotel and asked that they not be disturbed by any media wanting to interview them. They also asked for full privacy until they could decide their next move.

Local lawyers representing the group sought a writ of habeas corpus on Wednesday which was was denied by Justice Vasheist Kokaram yesterday following a court hearing at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain.

Kokaram noted the writ filed contained several procedural defects. He expressed concern that the group contained six minors, ranging from the ages of nine and a half to 16 years, none of whom appeared to speak English and no evidence was provided as to their link to the three adults who were also rejected entry into this country.

The judge also questioned the group’s purpose for leaving Canada for Guatemala. “What is troubling is that there are no details regarding the legitimacy of their travel. No nexus between the adults and the children. Why are they here in the first place?” he asked, before dismissing the application.

The nine — whose nationalities are American, Canadian and Israeli — were represented by Paul Issac and Sanjeev Lalla while Eduardo Martinez and Farai Masaisai. Newsday was told officers of the National Operations Centre (NOC) have been liasing with the group to coax them into boarding a flight to Canada, but members of the group continue to refuse the offer. The group who were questioned on Monday by Immigration authorities on their arrival to this country following their applications for admission, whilst in transit to Guatemala out Port of Origin, Toronto, Canada.

Their stated intent was to continue on to Guatemala. They claimed that their original flight to Mexico from Toronto did not occur, and were advised by a friend of Dinkel to travel to Trinidad, en route to Guatemala.

Dinkel , an elder of Moroccan extraction and a US citizen were subsequently interviewed by Immigration authorities and questioned in a friendly and courteous manner, relative to their intent, purpose and reasons for leaving Canada and coming to Trinidad, well placed sources revealed.

Dinkel proved to be very evasive and in control of the group and their spokesperson, even though there were others who spoke English, a source said yesterday. Dinkel was insistent that he and the group did not want to return to Canada. He stated that they were being persecuted in Canada and were bombarded by media hounding.

A source added that every effort was made in a most humane and dignified manner to facilitate their stay, and the airline representatives and Immigration authorities allowed approval for the group to stay at a hotel of their choice, pending a decision pertaining to their departure. “They refused to leave the airport unless they had their passports, which remained in the possession of Immigration authorities, as a standing protocol in matters of this nature,” the source added.

Dinkel and followers retained an attorney from Hove and Associates (Port-of-Spain) Farah Masai, to represent them in this matter at the airport. Sources also revealed that at no point did they declare that they were under investigations and the subject of Canadian interest by legal authorities, even though extensive questions were posed to them, they denied all.

They were also advised and cautioned on the international obligations of the Government of TT by the Immigration authorities, and specifically on the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. The group despite all efforts from the Trinidad and Tobago authorities and the West Jet representatives to accommodate and ensure their safety prior to them returning to Canada, has continued to refuse the offers.

Last November members of the group fled to a town near Windsor, Ontario, Montreal’s CBC news reported. The report said two families were scheduled to appear in a Chatham-Kernt, Ontario court to learn the results of their appeal of an earlier court judgment that 14 children from the sect must be returned to Quebec and placed in foster care.

Commenting on the matter yesterday at the post-Cabinet news conference, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said: “I have not had sight of the letter (filed by the group’s lawyer) but I am aware of part of the incidents. The Minister (Gary Griffith) will answer with respect to the immigration and so on.

“As far as I know, the lawyers have filed what is known as a habeas corpus. If the matter is before the court, the matter is subjudice. It will not be prudent for us to comment yay or nea on the matter, as the matter is pending in court. Persad-Bissessar advised National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who was sitting close by to “exercise caution” in his response. Griffith said: “It is quite obvious we can’t say much more.

What I can assure you is that the Immigration Department was very professional in the performance of their duties.” He added that Government is currently liasing with the Canadian authorities on the matter.

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