Judge keeps ’em guessing

Judgement reserved in first round of ‘Dudus’ extradition case

THE legal fight spawned by Jamaica’s decision not to hand over Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke to American authorities moved to the Supreme Court yesterday, but Justice Roy Jones kept the parties guessing, after three hours of deliberations.

Justice Jones reserved judgement on the applications brought by Opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller and Joseph Matalon, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) boss, who are asking to be removed as defendants in a motion brought by the justice minister, in the latest twist in the ‘Dudus’ extradition saga.

The judge gave no date for the ruling, but every indication is that it could be soon.

The in-camera proceedings ran for close to three hours as lawyers for Simpson Miller and Matalon made the case for their clients’ names to be struck from the motion brought by Dorothy Lightbourne, justice minister and attorney general.

Arguing against the names being dropped was eminent constitutional attorney, Dr Lloyd Barnett.

Coke, who was also named as a defendant in Lightbourne’s action, was not represented at court, as he had not been served any court documents.

The hearing got underway amid suggestions that it was legally wrong to name individuals as defendants when all they did was express an opinion on a matter.

“Soon, people will be afraid to express their views, and we are talking about even journalists, on legal matters,” said a senior media executive who criticised Lightbourne for her move. “The Government is skating on thin ice.”

Lightbourne was present in court, along with Solicitor General Douglas Leys and People’s National Party (PNP) Chairman Bobby Pickersgill.

Simpson Miller has been named as a defendant because of a public pronouncement on the justice minister’s unwillingness to sign the extradition order.

Matalon was named as defendant due to a press release issued by the PSOJ on the issue.

Lawyers for the two said that their clients had no information or documents that would assist the court in the declarations Lightbourne is seeking on her power under the Extradition Treaty.

Matalon’s lawyers said that their client was not opposed to the declarations being sought by the minister.

Lightbourne is seeking several declarations from the court to include the powers of the minister to take into consideration evidence illegally obtained in concluding whether or not to start extradition proceedings under the Extradition Treaty.

That matter will be addressed at the end of the applications brought by Simpson Miller and Matalon.

Should Justice Jones rule that Simpson Miller and Matalon’s names be removed, and Coke is not served, Lightbourne’s suit seeking the declarations would proceed ex parte (with one party), according to Queen’s Counsel, Frank Phipps.

“The suit would just proceed without anybody else being heard (but the minister),” Phipps told the Observer.

Phipps said if he were the judge in the matter, he would have ordered the minister to join the director of public prosecutions to the case as the director represents the United States in extradition matters here.

The United States government had last August requested the extradition of Coke to face charges associated with trafficking in drugs and guns.

Lightbourne has stubbornly refused to sign the authority to proceed, raising concerns from various sectors of society regarding her motive.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in whose West Kingston constituency lies Coke’s stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, had held that the wire-tap evidence against Coke was illegally obtained by the US.

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