LEAD-Former Dominica pm released on bail

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ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – Former Dominica prime minister Edison James was released on EC$50,000 (One EC dollar=US$0. 37 cents) bail on Friday, spending an estimated 20 minutes in a holding cell in a magistrate’s court after he was committed to stand trial at the High Court on a charge of incitement.

The 80-year-old former prime minister was charged with “encouraging, persuading, or instigating by words, causing persons to jeopardize the safety or endanger the public peace,” following a public meeting of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) on February 7, 2017, at which calls were made for the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

James, who served as prime minister between 1995 and 2000, has been at the center of the alleged incitement case, including former opposition leader Lennox Linton and the current UWP leader and economist Dr. Thomson Fontaine.

Magistrate Michael Laudat dismissed a no-case submission that had been filed on behalf of James, who later told a radio audience, “I always expected the magistrate to send this matter to the High Court.

“I always expected him to do that. I said to him directly that I do not believe it is appropriate for a magistrate on contract to handle highly political cases as the case involving me,” James said, adding, “he is under pressure, and I did not expect him not to send the matter to trial.

“So I understand the process once it is decided to send it to trial. It could involve committing to jail or a secure place until the trial is held. But then bail is available, and the magistrate could have offered bail immediately.

“I get the distinct impression that he was bent on sending me to jail…which he did,” James said, adding, “I don’t know why…”

“I have never been in a cell before, but life goes on,” he said, noting that the police “felt a way” in accompanying him to the holding cell.

“He asked me to sit not in the cell but in the general area, and I think he was still struggling with how he was going to put me in the cell, and then he came back and said you have to go, so, open the door, clang, clang, clang, and I went inside,” the former prime minister said before he was later removed and allowed to sit in another area awaiting the bail hearing.

“Laudat came there this morning pre-determined to put me in the cell, and he did everything to make sure that happened,” James said, adding,” It’s my opinion; I may be wrong. He was acting either on direct instructions or his understanding is that is what the power must be…”

Linton, whose trial comes up in the magistrate court next week, said that he was surprised at the magistrate’s decision given that James has been before the courts since 2017 and has never missed a hearing.

“Totally and obedient to the court. He has never been asked to come to court and has not been there. So, there is no record, history, or practice of Mr. James not showing up at court….

“This thing is so simple you wonder why Mr. James was put in the embarrassment of being placed in a cell in the first place,” he added.

The UWP has panned a protest for February 25, and both Linton and James have urged supporters to come in their numbers.

“I am appealing to Dominicans, let us understand where we are. Today, it is me. It will be you tomorrow. Stop this thing now. There is a call for people to be out on the 25th … We don’t have six billion (people) in Dominica, but let us get as close to that as possible.

“This is not a matter of we are fighting down Skerrit …we are fighting for Dominica,” James added.

The prosecution in the cases against the opposition politicians is led by the Trinidad-based criminal attorneys Israel Khan and Keith Scotland.

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