A High Court judge has ordered the immediate release of three Asian men who have been in police custody 12 days without charge.
The three are said to be part of 18 arrested during police raids, between February 5 and 6, in connection with the discovery of 19 Venezuelans – three teenage girls and 16 women, between the ages of 15 and 19 – who were allegedly held captive for the purpose of sex trafficking.
At about 4 pm yesterday, Justice David Harris ordered the release of the three after the police failed to justify the men’s lengthy detention.
“No cause being shown for the lawful detention of the claimants, the court hereby orders each person to be released and no longer be detained by the Commissioner of Police or his agents,” was the order of the judge.
The three were being kept at the Four Roads police station. Their attorney Subash Panday, on Friday, filed writs of habeas corpus seeking their release.
A hearing was heard on Saturday, and was adjourned to yesterday after the State argued that the applications filed were not in compliance with the Civil Proceedings Rules.
A supplemental affidavit was filed on the men’s behalf by the attorneys, however, this too was objected to by the State on the basis that it gave no real reason why it was not filed by the men themselves. At yesterday’s hearing, the men were not brought to court as they had been on Saturday and the State indicated that they were taken into custody of the immigration division.
Attorney Ravi Rajcoomar said the police had encountered some difficulty in getting Chinese interpreters to interview the men as well as Spanish-speaking translators of various dialects to take statements from the victims, some of whom are under-aged.
He also said charges have been drafted by the police who are working with the Director of Public Prosecutions and once directions are given by him, charges will be laid.
“It is 12 days but we have nothing,” the judge said.
He added that if the laws of TT had been broken then the police will have to do what they have to do and while he appreciated that some have their reasons for why these people must remain in custody until they are charged, the line must be drawn somewhere.
“The State has not been able to put pen to paper in support of the detention,” he added, as he ordered the men’s release.
Immigration officers, who were in court for the hearing, were expected to take the men into their custody, last night.
Several other similar applications are expected to be heard today.
On Saturday, Panday said his clients’ nationalities are still to be determined.
Last week, police were denied twice by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle in their attempt to legally retain an estimated $1.5 million believed to be part of a money laundering scheme associated with the alleged sex ring.
Officers assigned to the Finance Intelligence Bureau (FIB) first attempted to apply to a Port of Spain magistrate to have the money seized on February 8.
However, they arrived at the court too late and they were advised to return. The officers had 96 hours to apply to have the money seized, according to section 38 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, but did not. The police discovered the cash during the raids and it remains in their possession while the investigation continues.