Prosecutor: “This is absolutely not a witch hunt” Attorneys want acquittal for all election fraud defendantsPOSTED: 08/5/14 11:25 PM
St. Maarten – The attorneys for the four defendants in the 2010 election fraud case all zeroed in on the fact that the prosecution had exceeded the reasonable term for bringing the case to court, and they all asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible.
A hot item surfaced late in the day when attorney Eldon Sulvaran spoke up for his client Roy H. It started quietly with remarks that it is “impossible to prove that the freedom to vote has been affected,” that the initiative for the bribes had not come from his client and that nobody told the other defendants that they had to vote for the UP.
“Should non-elected judges intervene in this?” Sulvaran wondered, before quoting a witness who had said “that the investigation targets the Wathey and Heyliger families.” From there on, Sulvaran spoke of “secret trajectories” and of “wrong conclusions before the investigation even started.” In the end, he told the court: “There is a threat of political administration of justice.”
The attorney added, “That any ruling in this case will affect the outcome of the elections and that is a dangerous development.” He also suggested postponing the court ruling until after the elections – a request the court did not honor because the law prescribes that rulings are pronounced two or three weeks after a trial.
“It is not correct to handle political cases before the elections,” Sulvaran said. He asked to declare the prosecution inadmissible and if the court decides otherwise, to acquit his client. “There is not a shred of evidence that my client made an agreement.”
Attorney for Cernick Jan Lionel C., Cor Merx, tackled the undue delay, saying that the prosecution had described the investigation as a simple case. “Then why does this have to take almost four years?” He also referred to the final report about the investigation of February 14, 2013 that concluded “that the investigation does not result in a punishable crime.”
Merx charged that it is impossible “to vote for the UP” because voters have to choose a candidate from one of the lists. He also said that there is no proof his client had received or accepted an envelope with cash. Another bone of contention is the status of Roy H. according to Merx he is not a representative of the United People’s party, because he is not registered as such at the Chamber of Commerce under The United People’s Foundation.
Roy H. however told the National Detective Agency that he was accountable to party leader Theo Heyliger.
Based on many inaccuracies in the summons, Merx asked the court to declare the summons void. He noted that his client is in an awkward position, because he has been put on non-active duty in the radio room. “He goes to work, stays for eight hours but is not allowed to touch anything. That is a veiled form of suspension.”
Merx said that because there is no decision yet in the court case, his client has been unable to fight his situation in the court for civil servants. “He was not fired but the way he is being treated is worse than a dismissal.”
Attorney Jairo Bloem said that there is no evidence that his client Robert J. voted for the UP, or that his voting behavior is related to the financial help he reportedly received from the UP. “Distributing money does trigger questions,” the attorney said. “But there has to be a link between that money and the vote.”
He likened moveable assets like money to tee shirts, caps and “cheap watches.” Giving out those paraphernalia could equal bribery, he said. “The question is then which moveable assets you could provide, and which not.”
Bloem charged that the prosecutor’s office is hiding behind the understaffing of the National detective e Agency to explain why it took so long to bring the case to court. “The defendants should not become the victims of such a situation.”
The attorney asked to declare the prosecution inadmissible for exceeding the reasonable term, and asked the court to acquit his client for lack of evidence. “Nobody asked: “Did you vote for the UP? Or did you vote at all?”
Bloem said that the limited investigation as described by the prosecutor’s office as a reason not to prosecute the UP violates the equality principle. “There is no proof that money was given in exchange for voting in a certain way. By acting selectively, the prosecutor’s office is improperly intervening in politics.”
Cindy Marica also pleaded for declaring the prosecution inadmissible and for an acquittal for her client Ashwin M. “Nothing shows that Roy H. has asked for something in return. There simply is no bribery. My client has consistently denied that he has received any money.”
Towards the end of the hearing Sulvaran accused the prosecution of influencing a defense witness, but Noordzij waned none of that accusation. “This is not a political prosecution or an attempt to attack the Wathey or Heyliger families. The cause is that Glinda W. went to Commissioner John and told him about vote buying. This is absolutely not a witch hunt.”