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Wednesday 18 September 2019
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[UPDATED] DUKE SILENT

PSA leader appears in court on sedition charge

. Photo courtesy Watson Duke
. Photo courtesy Watson Duke

President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke and president of the Seaman and Waterfront Workers' Union (SWWU) Michael Annisette will be joining with opposition activist Devant Maharaj to challenge the legality of the Sedition Act in December, Annisette has said.

Duke was unusually silent as he left the Port of Spain Magistrates' Court yesterday afternoon, shortly after being granted bail.

Speaking with reporters outside the court, Duke's attorney John Heath said his client may be joining other parties in challenging the Sedition Act.

"There exists a matter before the court that seeks to address the constitutionality of the Sedition Act, and we will be looking at our options of whether or not we join in that matter."

For his part Annisette described the act as an "archaic" law that had no place in modern society. He said it was a tool to silence opposition and he would challenge its legality alongside Maharaj and Duke.

Duke appeared before magistrate Adia Mohammed in the Third Court charged with one count of sedition, for statements made during a rally at the Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT) office on November 16, 2018, at which he allegedly attempted to stir unrest among workers.

The charge was that this was contrary to section 4 (1) (b) of the Sedition Act. It was laid indictably. Duke was not called upon to plead.

Heath said Duke had complained of feeling unwell and an electrocardiogram (ECG: a visual representation used to show one's heartbeat), was "not normal" in tests done at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH).

"Up until this morning (yesterday) Mr Duke was at the hospital. He self-discharged himself, against medical advice. I have given copies of his discharge sheet to the police and the court, and he is to be readmitted to the hospital if he is granted bail, as he is still feeling unwell."

On these grounds Heath asked for reasonable bail.

The court prosecutor said while there was no objection to bail, he was concerned that given Duke would continue to commit offences, citing his pending matters of rape, indecent assault and one count of disorderly conduct in Scarborough.

The prosecutor also said while the court was entitled to make stipulations in granting bail, it was difficult to set conditions, given the nature of the charge and Duke's title as a trade unionist and politician.

"Unfortunately, this particular situation leaves me at a loss for words. The court cannot allow the accused to continue to commit offences, and while it is only an allegation, it is an allegation that emerged while he was already out on bail for these other offences.

"The fact that the accused is president of the PSA and the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and continues to engage in this behaviour is cause for concern," the prosecutor said.

Heath said while his client would not be "muzzled," he would respect the decision of the court and commended Sgt Darren Lall and other members of the Special Branch for their professionalism and the way the investigation was done.

He said Duke's rights were observed throughout his detention and he was allowed to communicate with his lawyer at all times.

Duke's brother Eric Norman Duke stood surety for his bail, which was set at $250,000.

Mohammed said there were four outstanding statements which needed to be compiled in a file by investigators and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions by October 29.

Ten witnesses are expected to be called for the prosecution when the matter resumes on December 13.

After the hearing, Duke and his wife, Kim, were escorted to his Mercedes Benz and taken to the PoSGH. Duke did not respond to questions from reporters, but gestured to his throat to indicate he could not speak.

This story was originally published with the title "Duke granted $250k bail with surety" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.


Leader of the Public Services Association Watson Duke was granted $250,000 bail with a surety when he appeared before a Port of Spain Magistrate this morning charged with sedition.

Duke appeared before magistrate Adia Mohammed in the Third Court.

The prosecution said while they did not object to a bail application made by Duke's attorney John Heath, they were concerned that Duke may continue to commit offences while on bail.

Citing Duke's pending matters of rape and indecent assault in Trinidad and one count of disorderly conduct in Tobago, the police prosecutor said they were not sure what bail stipulations to place on Duke given his status as leader of the PSA.

Duke was granted bail and is expected to return to court in December.

Heath told reporters, while Duke was mentally strong, he was still unwell and was expected to be re-admitted to the Port of Spain General Hospital on release from police custody.

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