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‘Jihad’ of protests

By AZARD ALI Thursday, July 10 2014

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MUSLIM APPEAL: The wives and children of the five muslims in jail in Caracas held under Venezuela's anti-terrorism laws, at Newsday's offices yesterda...
MUSLIM APPEAL: The wives and children of the five muslims in jail in Caracas held under Venezuela's anti-terrorism laws, at Newsday's offices yesterda...

A “Jihad” of protest on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago is being threatened by the wives of five local Muslims who have been in detention in Venezuela for the last 112 days without any formal charges laid against them by the authorities of the neighbouring republic. They are vowing to take the action if their loved ones are not released or charged.

“No where in the free world are persons locked up in jail for such a period and not charged with an offence,” said Omar Abdullah speaking on behalf of the women yesterday.

The wives of Dominic Clive Pittilal, 33, Andre Joseph Battersby, 56, Asim Luqman, 34, Wade Charles, 36, and Leslie Daisley, told Newsday yesterday that their husbands have begun to show signs of losing their minds as they sit day and night in a dark cell in Caracas.

The five men were detained in March by the Venezuelan Intelligence Service for suspected anti- terrorist activities when camouflage outfits, cellphones with statellite connections, were found in their hotel room in Caracas. Their wives and children and a number of imams who were with them in Venezuela at the time were allowed to return to Trinidad following intervention by a mission headed by Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The wives were informed by their husbands last week that they had not been taken to court, but were told that July 29 is the new date of hearing in the Venezuelan anti-terrorist court.

Luqman’s wife, Famina, 36, who was one of the detainees in March, said yesterday there is growing frustration each day among her children for their father’s return. She said neither Luqman nor the other four detainees care anymore to leave their dark cell for their morning “air out.”

She said, “Luqman, Pittilal, Wade and Leslie told us that seeing the clouds and the trees outside for a couple seconds is more punishing than remaining in jail. That taste of freedom is haunting them, so as a result, they do not go out for morning airing.”

Gloria Charles, 56, mother of Charles, and Luqman’s niece, Abeni, told Newsday that Battersby and Wade had become so distant from reality though living in a dark cell for the past 112 days, “that they have begun to lose their mind.” Abeni added, “One of them is not talking. The other is behaving violently. It is due to confinement.”

Abdullah, who heads the Waajihatul Islaamiyyah (The Islamic Front), said yesterday that a placard demonstration including the children is being planned in front of the offices of the Prime Minister.

Contacted yesterday, Kelshall said that as far as he was aware the TT Government was awaiting the outcome of the hearings to decide what representation could be made by the government here.

“We cannot interfere with the jurisprudence in Venezuela,” Kelshall pointed out. “We must wait on the outcome. We have not given up, but we must wait. We cannot intervene on how they operate.”

In a passionate plea for his father’s return, one of the children wrote a letter to him.

“Dear Abbi (father),” he stated, “How are you. I hope you are ok. I am really missing you. Why are you not coming home? Don’t you love us anymore. We are missing you, please hurry up and come home.”

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