JENSEN LA VENDE
One of the 13 men released by the police without charge after being held in relation to a threat to disrupt Carnival yesterday said he was only questioned one day of the seven days police had him in custody.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday at his business along Southern Main Road Chaguanas, Ishmael Mohammed, said he was arrested around 3 pm two Thursdays ago, questioned the following Saturday night and for the remaining days he languished in a cell at the Besson Street Police Station with other men accused of being in possession of guns and ammunition, two illegal immigrants and burglary. The first morning he said he was offered a meal that included pork and as a Muslim that was an insult to him.
Mohammed said he was asked whether he was affiliated in any way with ISIS and he responded to the officers that ISIS was not his concern.
“That is for them over there, me, I have my business and my family to study. I have seven children including a special needs child,” Mohammed said adding that he was told he was picked up because his name was on a list of people that were wanted in connection with a threat to disrupt Carnival.
Mohammed added that his arrest had tarnished his reputation and outside of a minor traffic violation, he had no criminal record or affiliations. He added that he received a certificate of good character from the Chin Chin Police Station less than six months ago as required to operate an excavator. He said he plans to sue the State so that in future they will not be so eager to arrest someone without evidence.
“I was treated like a hardened criminal,” Mohammed said, adding that his home was searched and like all the others arrested and subsequently freed, his cellphone was seized and not returned after his release.
Mohammed is a member of the Nur-E-Islam mosque which was searched in relation to the threat. Police said 15 people were arrested, 13 were released and two, a couple, Adil Mansano and Alisha Thomas, of San Juan, were denied bail after they appeared in court charged with being possession of a firearm component.
Another detainee, who was released without charge, Imam Edoo Mohammed, conducted Jummah prayers at his Longdenville mosque, Al-Khaleefah Masjid on Friday. Sunday Newsday visited the mosque but the imam, who in 2016 sought peace among warring Muslims in Enterprise, Chaguanas, said he could not speak at the time as his time was demanded by many.
Speaking were some of his members, who said the imam could never be involved in any plot to disrupt Carnival. One member said the Friday prior to his arrest on February 8, Imam Mohammed told his members not to partake in the Carnival festivities.
“He even spoke against ISIS. We not on that foolishness. The Friday before he was arrested he told the member to stay away from Carnival, how he could come now and and plot. It is haram for a Muslim to attack someone without cause,” the member said.
Imam Mohammed who was all smiles when the Sunday Newsday approached him, said he was willing to speak but at a later date. He too said his cell phone was seized and was not returned to him.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who is the chairman of the National Security Council, said it would have been irresponsible not to act on the information gathered by local and foreign agencies. He underscored that the threat was real. The first set of arrests took place two Thursdays ago and by Carnival Monday the 15 people had been detained.
The exact nature of the threat was never revealed, with authorities describing it as “unusual criminal acts of varying forms, including violence”.