Tuesday was a busy day at the courts in Belize City. We begin with the extradition case involving Gary Seawell. Attorney for the accused drug trafficker Gary Gordon Seawell, Arthur Saldivar, thought he had a winning hand when he attacked the credibility of the bundle of documents sent by the U.S. Government in support of its request for extradition of Mr Seawell to the United States which has been in dispute since 2007. Gary Seawell was only captured in February of 2010 and has been on remand ever since. Mr Saldivar charged that there is no evidence in the documents to show clearly that the deponent or swearer knew of his obligation to tell the truth, which would have legitimized the documents. But on Tuesday in the #1 Magistrate’s Court, Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith pronounced herself satisfied with the documents and overruled Mr Saldivar’s arguments as “minor discrepancies” which would not have rendered the document worthless. A stung Arthur Saldivar was left to explain himself to the press outside the courtroom.
“The surprise is not the word. The word is shocked; the word is down founded, stupefied; mollified.”
Reporter: “Can you tell us why are you experiencing those particular feelings?”
Arthur Saldivar: “Well, an application was made inlimini, which is an application before the substantive start of the proceedings, to determine whether or not the documents were admissive. That is what the ruling should have been about for the purpose of the proceedings. And certainly it was never anticipated that we were going to get a ruling in relation to the ultimate question. Whether or not the case was made out; it is what it is. The court has made a ruling and is now for the Supreme Court to determine whether or not the ruling is in line with the law. I will say, however that from my expectation, justice required that our side be heard on each document, on each witness statement”.
According to Arthur Saldivar the Chief Magistrate erred in her judgment.
Arthur Saldivar: “Now, what the ruling is saying here; “the statements before the court according to the laws of Belize. Now that was one of the questions. Certainly we know that the statements were not made in accordance with the laws of Belize because they were not made in Belize nor for courts in Belize. They were made in relation to a jury indictment in the United States”.
Reporter: “Mr. Saldivar, will you allow me to take the word that did indicate that some Section 15 and 16 of the Extradition Act has been complied with. Can you address that issue?”
Arthur Saldivar: “Well, Section 15 and 16 has to do with the acceptance of certain documents, even if they don’t conform in their form with what is required in Belize. However, the contention of the defense was in relation to whether or not the absence of an oath rendered the documents purely hearsay, which would have made them inadmissible in a court of law”.
Arthur Saldivar says the case will be going up to the Supreme Court where they will review legal errors made by the Chief Magistrate.
Arthur Saldivar: “Now, what the chief magistrate stated in her decision is that in relation to anything regarding the admissibility, these are issues to be dealt with a trial in the United States or at the habeas corpus hearing in the Supreme Court f Belize”. So, I believe there is an error in law in that regard and that error in law will be brought up before the Supreme Court. I believe that the… we have enough precedent relating to other extradition matters where it has been shown that hearsay is inadmissible here in Belize…I mean…it cannot be that persons can give statements that in law would be a nullity, and that nullity is acted upon in the courts of law in Belize. But as I said, we are all humans, born at sometime or the other to make errors, and I believe an error has been made here. But that error, I must caution, is in relation to the freedom of a Belizean person…and every Belizean life, no matter what we may think, it’s important and we don’t allow as much as it can be prevented, Belizeans to be eroded”.
Gary Seawell has been told he has fifteen days from Tuesday’s date to make the formal application. A decision on his older brother Mark due from the Supreme Court has yet to materialize.