COMPOL denies religion played any role in detention of Muslim family

The sensational story about a Muslim family being detained by Belize Police and their electronic devices confiscated has made full media rounds over the past week. The Ahmad family of Hattieville reported to the public that Special Branch Police orchestrated a predawn raid on Monday at their house in Hattieville. Seventeen people; members of their family and 2 other families were rounded up and detained at the Eastern Division South Headquarters on Raccoon Street. They were interrogated for several hours and after they were released their laptops, phones and other electronic devices were held for a week by the police. Today, Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, accompanied by Special Branch Commander Marco Vidal, called a press conference at his office in Belmopan to discuss what information could be made public, as well as to refute some of the information made public by the Ahmad family, and by extension, the media. Head of Special Branch, Marco Vidal, spoke briefly about the early morning raid and why Police believe it was necessary.

Marco Vidal, Police Special Branch

“For the past several months, Special Branch has been engaged in an investigation concerning information which we consider to be of vlcsnap-2016-06-28-15h31m02s735a serious nature. I am not in a position to divulge the nature of that investigation; neither can I provide details of the investigation. But you will be aware that on Monday, the twentieth of June, we conducted searches at the residences of the Ahmad family and other persons. Items were taken from the search and these items are being returned to the owners as we speak. Certain allegations have been made in relation to the operation and the manner in which the searches were done. We can categorically state that the operation satisfied us and that we are satisfied that in fact the operation was done within the confines of the law and in a professional manner. We are also equally satisfied that we will be able to successfully refute, of the need arises, any challenges in regards to the propriety of the search.”

 

Beside the fact that the raid was done on a well known Belizean family, they are of the Muslim faith. This is a holy season for the Religion, being the month of Ramadan. In an interview with Channel 5, Fareed Ahmad said that QUOTE “… the only thing I could conclude is that it was something in relation to being a Muslim and the very harsh, the very hurtful part about this, … is the fact that this is the month of Ramadan; it is our most sacred month.” Commissioner Whylie directly refuted the allegations that religion played any role in the action police had to take.

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“Our history has shown that we have never persecuted any person based on belief. We have always respected people’s opinion and wevlcsnap-2016-06-28-15h33m11s194 respect their right to differ from us and from others. We coexist quite easily and we respect the constitution and the different democratic values in Belize. I don’t think any Religion would ever believe or feel that the police in Belize have persecuted them. As I said in this case we know based on the things that have been said in interviews that some of those things were false. We want to set the record straight. One person said that the Holy Qur’an was taken by the police and Mr. Vidal can confirm that did not happen. If these people are religious, why is it that they would purposely misspeak in terms of what occurred. They said that they were not given a reason why the officers were there. We know that they were informed of the reason and a warrant was read to them. We know that they were allowed to call their attorneys and speak to their attorneys. We did everything that we were supposed to do by the book but we need to understand that when the police execute their duties it is without fear or favor. We will go wherever we need to go in terms of safety and security and ensuring the safety of this nation. We will do it professionally and we will be prepared to face whoever, wherever and whenever because we know what we are doing is right according to the laws of Belize.”

 

The police were able to search six homes using a warrant that mentioned conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit damage to property. This led to speculation that Police were investigating possible links between local Muslims to the terror networks of the Middle East – Al Qaeda and Islamic State. We tried to get answers from the High Command as to the nature of the information they acted on, or if as assumed, the US Embassy was involved in any way, but we ourselves made little headway on that effort.

Marco Vidal, Police Special Branch

“I cannot go into the details about that. As I explained at the beginning that I will not get into the nature of the investigation and neither will I go into the intricacies of the investigation. I can tell you generally that we have no confirmed reports of ISIS being involved directly with Belize. As you may know, persons have been recruited by ISIS in parts of the Caribbean and we cannot be naïve to the fact that it can’t happen here in Belize. “

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“I understand what you are saying, but as Mister Vidal indicated, it’s a sensitive matter. We are certain that the family may be taking legal action and so we don’t want to put our cards out there as you’d want us to because it is of a sensitive nature. I can tell you that I’ve received a letter from their attorney, so I would say that much. But I am satisfied that the operation as legal, legitimate; items were retrieved as the family indicated. And those items, we are through with them and the family was contacted today to come in and pick up their items. Whether or not they have done so, I am not certain.”

Marco Vidal, Police Special Branch

“Upon executing the operation, all persons whose homes were searched and who were detained were told the parameters of the search and the purpose for which we were there. We cannot give any further than that because there have not been any charge put on the matter as yet.”

 

Police say that they were in the process today of returning the devices to the family; devices they say that were never at the US Embassy.

About the Author