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Africa News of Monday, 8 March 2021

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Cape Verde: Saab's legal team accuses police of denying them access to client for the 4th time

Lawyers of Alex Saab have 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.

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.

He had been in prison until Monday, 25 January 2021 when he was put under house arrest after his application was approved.

Two days after, his lawyers were in the news as a result of some treatments allegedly meted out to them, including claims that authorities have denied them entry into the house to see their client.

Pinto Monteiro, a member of the defense team told the media “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.”

A similar allegation has been leveled against the police in the March 8, 2021, press release.

"Despite three Cape Verde courts’ orders and a court order from the ECOWAS Court of Justice... despite negative PCR-tests, Cape Verde police denied entry to two lawyers, members of Mr Saab’s defense team, who have arrived to Praia this morning to connect to Sal in order to visit their client," the statement read.

While stressing that, "this contempt for due process and civilised behaviour is disgraceful and must stop immediately", Saab's legal team said, "This is a fourth time when members of Mr Saab’s legal team, holders of EU, UK and Colombian passports, were denied entry to Cape Verde."

"More paradoxically, in the decision dated 20 February 2021, the Supreme Court of Justice stated that the house arrest of Mr Saab '…does not limit freedom and movement…'. Hence, the current actions of Cape Verde violate all legal norms, international and domestic court orders," it added.

Conditions of Saab's house arrest completely irregular - Lawyers for detainee

Meanwhile Saab's lawyers argued at a court hearing on 5 February 2021 that Cape Verde can't disregard Saab's diplomatic status, stressing that on 24 December 2020, Saab was appointed as Alternate Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the African Union. His immunity was thus reinforced, but it also demonstrated that he continues to command the full support of Venezuela as a diplomatic agent.

Lawyer Femi Falana 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. 

He additionally noted that though Cape Verde has released Alex Saab into house arrest, it has only done so to give the impression of having complied with the ECOWAS Court 2 December decision.

The reality, Femi Falana argued, is that Cape Verde has only partially grudgingly complied and the conditions of Mr Saab’s so-called house arrest are well short of accepted international standards and even below those Cape Verde itself has offered to drug traffickers in the past.

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