DNA questions evidence of national security threat
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Feb 27, 2016
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney said yesterday the government’s handling of two Cubans branded as a national security threat after the Supreme Court ordered them released from the Department of Correctional Services “has revealed new levels of government opacity that are cause for concern for many reasons”.
In a statement, McCartney said despite lengthy contributions in Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell failed to explain why the Cubans have been branded a national security risk.
He said, “Instead, the government presented only vague overtures which have done nothing but fan the flames of speculation and heighten public anxiety over their release into the general population.”
Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara Marin were originally held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre but were transferred to the prison in 2013.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs ordered that the men be freed last week, after attorney Fred Smith filed a writ of habeas corpus.
The Nassau Guardian confirmed that in November, Mitchell asked Cabinet to grant the men asylum and release them into the general population.
At the time, Mitchell reported to his colleagues that the men had satisfied all security requirements to be released into the population.
But last Friday, the minister called them “a national security risk” and said he had alerted border control officials.
In the House of Assembly, Mitchell claimed the men had criminal records in the United States.
He also claimed that while at the detention center, Marin, who he said previously served in the Cuban military, “actively participated in ongoing commotions with intelligence reports [identifying him] as a principal instigator and disrupter”, resulting in him being transported to the Department of Correctional Services.
Mitchell said the men may be rearrested by immigration officials.
But McCartney said the government has shown a callous disregard for the law.
In a country plagued by high levels of crime and lawlessness, the government has made a trend of this dangerous precedent, McCartney charged.
“If government officials are not bound by law, then why should the criminal element in this country be?” he asked.
“While the minister has spent his time bickering over which attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General did or did not follow his instructions, the international community has taken note.”
In its latest human rights report, Amnesty International said The Bahamas continues to face serious allegations of abuses against migrants, concerns of inhumane prison conditions, excessive use of force by security forces and a weak justice system.
“The country’s challenges with immigration are long standing and debates over the issue have been volatile,” McCartney said.
“However, as I have said before, we can no longer abdicate responsibility for the role we have all played in allowing this issue to grow and intensify.
“I again call for the government to strike the necessary balance in ensuring that the rule of law is followed by all involved and that the country’s international reputation suffers no irreparable damage.”