Thursday 28th June, 2007

 

Grenada frees 3 coup leaders

10 others to go free within 2 years

 
 
 
 
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Lester Redhead, Christopher Stroude and Cecil Prime, after their release yesterday.
Photos courtesy Grenada Today

Judgement Day

  • Judge orders immediate release of three jailed leaders of Grenada’s 1983 coup.
  • Remaining ten can go free within two years, judge rules.
  • All 13 originally sentenced to death in killings of PM Maurice Bishop and ten others.
  • Coup led to US invasion to restore order and rescue American students.

A HIGH COURT judge in Grenada ordered the immediate release yesterday of three of 13 imprisoned leaders of the 1983 coup that led to US invasion of Grenada.

He said the remainder will serve less than two more years behind bars.

All 13 were originally sentenced to death in 1986 for the killings of former socialist leader Maurice Bishop, four Cabinet members and six supporters.

Supreme Court judge Francis Bell said he showed leniency because the defendants behaved well in prison and demonstrated remorse by inviting the victims’ relatives to prison so they could apologise in person.

“I don’t accept that they are future risks to the society,” he said.

Some relatives of those killed in the coup on the island protested the ruling, shouting “Murders! Murderers!” as they stormed out of the courtroom.

Hundreds of spectators turned out for the week-long resentencing mandated by a February ruling by the Privy Council, which threw out the death sentences against the prisoners.

Three prisoners— Lester Redhead, Christopher Stroude and Cecil Prime—deserved to go free as soon as possible because they played a minor role in the coup, Bell said.

The judge did not address a request to immediately release former deputy prime minister Bernard Coard, whose attorneys argued he needs eye surgery.

Two other prisoners with health problems—John Ventour and Colville McBarnette—were ordered to appear before a review board later this year.

During the 1986 trial, prosecutors said Coard and other hardline members of the Marxist government sent soldiers to kill Bishop on October 19, 1983, considering him too moderate.

Six days after the killings, thousands of US troops stormed the Caribbean island on a mission that President Ronald Reagan said would restore order, protect American medical students and prevent a build-up of Cuban military advisers and weapons.

Four others convicted in 1986 were spared death sentences.

They included Coard’s wife, who was freed in 2000 to undergo cancer treatment.

Mixed reaction to judge’s ruling

THERE WAS mixed reaction in Grenada to yesterday’s announcement by re-sentencing Barbadian-born judge Justice Francis Belle after seven days of presentations by prosecution and defence counsel.

Belle, who gave a briefing on what he accepted and disregarded from both the submissions of both sides, sentenced Cecil Prime, Christopher Stroude and Lester “Goat” Redhead to 30 years with hard labour each.

The others—including Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, Ewart Layne and Leon Cornwall, John Entour and Colville McBarnette—were sentenced to 40 years with hard labour.

In his 30-minute oral judgment, Belle took into account the men’s years of incarceration, as well as years spent on remand.

In fact, it means that Prime, Stroude and Redhead have already served their time. The other ten have about five more years but they could be out within two years as the judge ordered that three years be discounted from their sentences.

While relatives and friends of the victims shed tears of frustration that the release of all 13 was imminent, Redhead’s mother Theresa said, “Today is a blessing!” She thanked God for the release of her youngest son.

Prime’s daughter was seen sitting by herself, shedding tears of joy and relief.

PM Mitchell: It’s a sad time

According to the Grenada Informer, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell is reported to have stated upon learning of the Court’s decision that this was a sad time for Grenada.

For a few hours, with defence lawyers, police and security officers making numerous trips into the prison, the fate of the three seemed uncertain.

Then at approximately 4 pm, six hours after the court proceedings began, the three men walked free.

Of the other ten—Bernard Coard, Hudson Austin, Liam James, Ewart Layne, Leon Cornwall, John Ventour, Colville McBarnette, Selwyn Strachan, David Bartholomew and Callistus Bernard—there would be reviews of the sentencing of Hudson Austin because of the assistance he gave in the rebuilding of the Prison compound after Hurricane Ivan; John Ventour and Colville McBarnette because they are afflicted with cancer.

—With assistance from The Grenada Informer

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