AN alleged Jamaican drug baron at the centre of this week’s uprising in Kingston is seeking political asylum abroad, according to a British solicitor who has spoken to him.
Hannah Harris Barrington said she talked to Christopher “Dudus” Coke seven times as loyalists barricaded his stronghold in the Kingston slum of Tivoli Gardens to block his extradition to the US. She said Mr Coke, 42, reputed to be head of the Shower Posse drug gang, feared that security forces wanted to kill him to prevent him talking about his ties to powerful politicians.
Mr Coke’s bastion is the constituency of Bruce Golding, Jamaica’s Prime Minister and Labour Party leader, who tried for months to shield him from extradition before ordering his arrest on May 17. “He wishes to seek political asylum. He told me he is willing to turn himself in,” Ms Harris Barrington, who had a practice in Deptford, southeast London, until two years ago, told The Times. “He is being persecuted because he gave Bruce Golding his seat in Parliament.
“He is willing to disclose all the infomation that he is going to be killed for. He is willing to tell me everything about the Prime Minister – how the Prime Minister came to become an MP from that area,” she said. With a huge military manhunt under way, which has already resulted in the deaths of 73 people in Tivoli Gardens and elsewhere, Mr Coke may have reason to worry. His father, Lester Coke, also known as “Jim Brown”, ran the Shower Posse during the “drug wars” in the 1980s in the US in which the gang was blamed for 1,400 murders. Despite his political connections, Lester Coke was eventually arrested, but died in a 1992 prison fire before he could be extradited to the US – amid speculation that powerful figures wanted to stop him talking about his political ties.
Ms Harris Barrington, the daughter of a Jamaican bishop, moved to the island from Britain in 2008 to become a lawyer, pastor and human rights acti-vist. She made contact with Mr Coke as the stand-off grew last weekend. She said that he appeared to be in Jamaica last Saturday because she arranged to meet him – although the meeting never took place.
She last spoke to him on Monday, as hundreds of soldiers stormed his slum redoubt. But she said she does not know his whereabouts. “He is willing to hand himself in, but not to Mr Golding because he is going to die. There will be some story – a prisoner is going to stab him or something,” she said.
“I said, ‘I think you need to seek the assistance of another international state’. We did not actually use the words asylum, but it is asylum.
“I know he wants international assistance. He told me he is willing to give himself in.” Ms Harris Barrington said Mr Coke would clearly not seek asylum in the US, where he is listed as one of the “world’s most dangerous” drug lords and faces trafficking and gun-running charges that carry a possible life term.
Speculation in the local press has suggested he could escape to Venezuela, where the Government may protect him from the US. But Paul Beswick, one of Mr Coke’s official lawyers, told The Times that he was not aware of any attempt by his client to seek political asylum.
Mr Coke’s lawyers are reported to have been in discussions with the US Embassy in Jamaica about a possible surrender, and US Drug Enforcement Agency officials are reported to be on stand-by to fly in and collect him. But Mr Beswick would not comment on any talks with US officials. “The best I can say is that various discussions are in progress in an attempt to resolve the current impasse. I could not be more specific,” he said.
There are countless rumours about Mr Coke’s whereabouts. US sources told ABC television that they believe he slipped into neighbouring Denham Town or Jones Town. Local reports suggested that he may have sought the protection of a friendly “don”, or crime figure, in nearby May Pen.