Lebanese Belizean businessman Khalid El- Turk is being sought by the United States for illegal importation and conspiracy to import pseudo-ephedrine. El-Turk returned to the Belize City magistrate court this morning as his extradition hearing continues. Government counsels Magalie Perdomo and Illiana Swift responded to the charges by El-Turk’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Edwin Flowers and Anthony Sylvestre. They argued that the offenses for which El-Turk is being sought are not extraditable offenses under the 1870 Extradition Act to which Belize subscribes and the 2000 Belize-U.S. extradition treaty. They also say that the documents the U.S. Government forwarded to support its case in court were not properly authenticated; and that the evidence against El-Turk was insufficient without the testimony of an unnamed witness which would not be admissible under law either in Belize or the U.S. In relation to the first charge, the Government made a major concession, according to Sylvestre.
Anthony Sylvester – Attorney for Khaled El Turk:
Well you will recall that Mr. El Turk in October of last year, a provisional warrant was submitted by the US Government for his arrest. He has been on remand at the Colby Facility since then. On April 4th the extradition proceeding started. Mr. Kevin Flowers, senior council, and myself appeared on behalf of Mr. Flowers at those preceding had submitted to the court the three bases the reason as to why the defendant was objecting to his extradition. Those were firstly, the crime for which he is alleged to have committed and to which his extradition is being sought; those being importation of sudafedrin. Conspiracy to import sudafedrin into the United States of America. Those aren’t extraditable offences. For an offence to be an extraditable offence it must be a crime in both countries of a punishment of no less than one year. Interestingly though the proceedings the representative of the US Government very quickly conceded they are not strictly seeking an offence of importation of sudafedrin in Belize. So what they have sought to do is to temper/maneuver their agreements and are now alleging and submitting that the effect of the substance that Mr. El Turk is being sought for manufacturing and dealing with Meth Amphetamine. That is what was submitted this morning and we in turn will respond to that submission on May 16th.
Additionally, the Government contended that under the Act and Treaty whether the “conduct” of the individual would be considered an offense under the law in both countries is of primary concern. In the case of Belize, methamphetamine is a controlled drug under Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and under Section 9 (4) of the Act its production or involvement in its production is an indictable offense and treated similarly to drug trafficking. On indictment here, that carries a term of 3 to 10 years in prison if convicted, more than the minimum one year required under the U.S. treaty. Perdomo and Swift also told the court that the documents used as the linchpin of their case were in fact properly authenticated and attested to by the various relevant authorities, including the Belize Embassy in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The case of Mark Seawell in which former Chief Magistrate Margaret McKenzie ruled him fit to be extradited featured similarly authenticated documentation. Finally, they dismissed the third charge on the ground that El-Turk if extradited would be able to confront the anonymous witness, whose name was not revealed at this stage of trial because of allegations of fear for his life. The case has been adjourned to May 16, when Flowers will reply on behalf of El-Turk.