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Send our sons home

By Darcel Choy Friday, April 4 2014

click on pic to zoom in
My son, my son!: Gloria Charles-John speaks in anguish to her son Wade Charles, one of eight men detained in Caracas. ...
My son, my son!: Gloria Charles-John speaks in anguish to her son Wade Charles, one of eight men detained in Caracas. ...

The cries of a mother demanding her son detained in Caracas be sent back home filled the air yesterday morning during a demonstration outside the Venezuelan Embassy, Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain.

Gloria Charles-John called on Government to intervene and bring her son, Wade Charles, back to Trinidad.

Charles and seven other Muslim men, three of them imams, were among 19 Trinidadians, including women and children, held at a hotel in Caracas for about two weeks after initially being accused of terrorism and later of plotting to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The women and children were released and have since returned home while the men were further detained on background checks.

The imams, Salam Abdul, Hamza Mohammad and Sheikh Hamid, are held with Charles, Dominic ‘Jamal’ Pitilal, Joseph Battersby, Asim Luqman, also known as Asim Cuffie Chionesu Luqman, and Leslic Doisley.

Pitilal and Luqman were among the 16 men held in December 2011, during the state of emergency, for an alleged plot to kill Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar and three government ministers and to destabilise the country. They were later freed.

Charles, 38, was speaking to head of the Muslim Social and Cultural Foundation, Inshan Ishmael, on his mobile phone when his mother heard his voice and demanded she speak to him. It was the first time, hearing her son’s voice since he was detained. She became very emotional and cried out to God as she asked her son why were the authorities keeping him there.

“Why are they keeping you there for, you are not a criminal, they have you there for no reason,” she cried.

She assured him that she and others were not going to stop their actions until he and the others are returned home.

Friends and family of those detained gathered outside the embassy for a silent protest holding placards demanding that their brothers be released.

Charles-John said since her son was detained in Venezuela his ten children were suffering.

“Oh god my grandchildren have no food. I am pleading with the Government right now. Wake up and see, bring our children home now, please today, I am begging you. I am going mad, I want my son, they are not terrorists,” she said.

Acting National Security Minister Clifton De Coteau said as of press time no reports were provided by officials in Venezuela. He said Cabinet made a decision yesterday that Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran will make a statement in Parliament today on the issue.

Charles in his conversation with Ishmael said he was thankful to everyone who came out and encouraged his fellow Muslims to continue their actions as it was helping their cause.

Meanwhile, the brother of one of the detainees, Pitilal, called on Persad-Bissessar, who returned to Trinidad from Panama last evening, to have Pitilal formally cleared of involvement in an assassination plot against her since he was never charged but his name is red-flagged internationally. Damian Pitilal said something had to be done soon as his family was very hurt by all of this.

“He has three young children and they need their father so the Prime Minister has to clear his name so he can come home,” he said. Another relative, Abeni Luqman, told Newsday she had spoken to the men in jail via a cellphone but still had no word on a court hearing. She hoped Perad-Bissessar would empathise with the people’s plight and would work to try to reunite the families.

Luqman repeated her claim that the detainees had been red-flagged because of an alleged plot against Persad-Bissessar which Luqman said had been shown to be false.

One of the detainees, in a CNC 3 News interview from his prison cell, yesterday appealed for local representation as no one has tried to contact them.

“They need to visit us, so they can hear our side of the story, so far only one side of the story they have been hearing,” he said.

He spoke about the conditions of the prison they were in noting that it was 12 men in one cell to share one bathroom. He said the food was “poor” so they were not eating it and were getting food from a brother who visits them regularly. He said out of the eight, one man had a heart condition and he has not received his medication.

The men were expected to appear before a Caracas court today but the detainee said that did not happen.

“We have no set court date, the lawyers have been pushing to see if they could establish a date so we are just waiting to see what is the next step,” he said.

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