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Local Imams freed from Caracas prison

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Thursday, May 15 2014

Healthy, safe and free, but not yet home free. This is the state at the three local Imams who have finally been released from the Venezuelan prison in which they were held for weeks.

Salam Abdul, Hamza Mohammad and Sheikh Hamid Hassan walked through the gates of the Sebin prison in Caracas at about 8.45 pm on Tuesday after they were examined by a medical doctor.

Also tasting freedom was a Guyanese national who lives in Venezuela, Imran Bacchus. Bacchus had been acting as the Imams’ chauffeur at the time of their arrest.

In a release from the Islamic Missionaries Guilds of the Caribbean and South America, president Imtiaz Mohammed stated that the doctors found the men to be healthy and not physically or mentally abused.

The men were arrested in March along with 19 others, including Muslim women and children, and charged with terrorism and criminal conspiracy. The women and children were held for approximately two weeks before they were released and returned to Trinidad.

Despite their freedom however, it does not seem that the Imams would be able to return to Trinidad within the next few days. Their security while in Venezuela however, has been made top priority for the lawyers of the law firm of Tamayo-Tamayo.

“When the Imams were freed none of their belongings, including 66 passports and money (US$6,000) seized from them, were given back to them. Today (yesterday) our lawyers and the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission will be dealing with the issue. The Imams’ return to Trinidad will be determined by the outcome of this issue,” said Mohammed.

He added that the families, congregations and friends of the Imams were “overwhelmed with feelings of joy and happiness” at the news of the men’s release, and are excited as they await their return.

Mohammed also thanked the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Security for the role they played in the release, the media, and all those in the Muslim community who contributed to the legal fees which amounted to US$17,000. He added that it was anticipated that the total cost of the matter would amount to approximately $120,000.

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