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Africa News of Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

ECOWAS Court to give judgement on Saab’s extradition case on March 15

The ECOWAS Court is set to deliver its judgement on the extradition case against business mogul Alex Saab. The case which was to be determined on March 10, 2021, has been adjourned to Monday, March 15 "because the court can’t find enough translators", Saab's lawyers quote the court to have said.

Mr. Saab, a Colombian businessman linked to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was arrested by police in Cape Verde in June last year on his way to Iran aboard a private jet.

The 49-year-old was arrested on the orders of the U.S. on allegations of corruption. The U.S. wants him extradited to face charges of corruption, but Venezuela has taken a stance against that decision as Mr. Saab’s lawyers fight to stop the process.

House arrest, alleged unfair treatment

Until Monday, 25 January 2021 when he was put under house arrest after his application was approved, Saab was in the custody of the police. With the approval of the application, Saab was to stay “in a residence that was already being prepared for this purpose. Security will be maintained by elements of the PNs Intervention Corps and also by elements of private security,” Notícias do Norte reported.

His house arrest was not without controversies as his lawyers on several occasions accused officials of denying them access to their client. Lead attorney Pinto Monteiro who is based in Cape Verde was the first to allegedly experience this in January.

“I went to visit Mr. Saab, a policeman wanted to search me. He ordered me to put my hands on the wall. And he wanted to see my lawyer papers about the case. I refused. I refused to allow him to search my papers and they won’t allow me to visit him,” he told the media while arguing that the said development is contrary to Cape Verde and ECOWAS laws.

The lawyers subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister and the office of the National Police, Sal Regional Command, to notify them of what they said were “wicked and arbitrary measures” being meted out to the team and its client and threatened to put visitation on hold if concerns are not addressed.

They described as “irregular” conditions for Saab’s arrest. They alleged, among others, that “Lawyers cannot have privileged communications with their client. Commander Orlando Evora, Regional National Police Commander, has not responded to requests for the specialist medical attention and medical examination Ambassador Saab as a cancer patient requires.”

In March, the lawyers again accused Cape Verde police of refusing them entry into the building where their client has been put under house arrest. According to the lawyers, they arrived at the Cape Verde airport but were sent back via the same flight.

"Cape Verde police deliberately hindering the legal process despite court orders. They deny Mr Saab’s his right to defend himself," said the team in a press release issued Monday, March 8, 2021.

Cape Verde opposition party raise concern

African Party of Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), the leading opposition party in Cape Verde has raised concerns about the treatment meted out to businessman Alex Saab who is under house arrest in the country.

At a Parliamentary session, Thursday, Rui Semedo, Parliamentary Leader of the PAICV, among others, questioned the continued detention of Alex Saab and sought answers to claims by his lawyers that the businessman has been denied access to healthcare, communication with the family, and defense team.

In response, Minister of Internal Administration, Paulo Rocha who was present said the matter is for the court to decide.

Diplomatic immunity argument

Femi Falana, lawyer of Alex Saab has argued at the ECOWAS court that his client who is under house arrest cannot "be subjected to imprisonment and legal proceedings by Cape Verde" because he is a diplomat of Venezuela and must be accorded all the privileges of a diplomat.

According to him, his client was on his way to discharge diplomatic duties of Venezuela in Iran when he was arrested by local police in Cape Verde. He further told the court that no objections have been raised to Mr. Saab’s appointment by the African Union, adding that it is not a matter for Cape Verde (or any other country for that matter) to raise an issue with whom Venezuela as a sovereign state appoints as its ambassador. Equally, it is for Iran to determine if it recognizes Mr. Saab as a Special Envoy to Iran and not any third party.

Protests

Protests have been held across numerous cities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela including the capital Caracas to demand the release of Saab. There have also been social media campaigns for same.

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