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Nov 13, 2014

Fourteen Benqueños Charged With Rioting and Unlawful Assembly

This morning there was heightened Police presence at the Benque Viejo Magistrate’s Court and special units on standby at the Police Station around the corner. Based on evidence gathered at a protest held on August nineteenth, Police summoned twenty alleged rioters to court this morning to be charged. Residents of Succotz and Benque Viejo united on that day to demand the arrest of Deputy Commissioner of Police Miguel Segura. Four days before, Segura was driving the vehicle which collided into a small car, killing an elderly woman and badly injuring the driver. Segura was indeed charged, whether as a result of the protest or not, and today, so were those who say they stood strong for justice. Mike Rudon was in Benque Viejo del Carmen today and has the story. 

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This morning at nine the Benque Viejo courtroom was packed with those summoned to be charged for participating in a protest on August nineteenth. There was heavy Police presence at the Courtroom – uniformed officers, not special units, while at the Police Station members of the Special Patrol Unit stood at readiness. But in the end the process went without incident, and after about two hours attorney Michel Chebat emerged from the courtroom to provide an update.

 

Michel Chebat, Attorney for Protesters

Michel Chebat

“There were a total of seventeen persons arraigned on the charges of rioting and unlawful assembly. The prosecution withdrew charges against two of those persons, so there are only fourteen persons who are now facing charges. There are five persons who were not served. So the situation is that fourteen persons have been charged with rioting and unlawful assembly today.”

 

Those fourteen were granted bail in the sum of three hundred dollars and one surety before they were allowed to leave Police custody. Like we said, there was no incident, but that doesn’t mean that all is calm and cool. Those charged, and those supporting them, feel that the legal action almost three months after the fact is deliberate malice and persecution by the government and the Police – and they’re not happy about it.

 

Michel Chebat

“You would think that because of the incident and how they perceive it, that charges would have been brought a lot earlier. I must tell you that it is disappointing to see that these people are being victimized. These are poor people who stood up for their rights and they are now being victimized and that is a grave injustice being done.”

 

Anthony Trujillo

Anthony Trujillo, Supporting Protesters (Translated)

“I have rights they say we live in a democracy but that does not exist, what we have is disgrace, poor people  don’t have anything, only votes exist. They give them their votes so they can do whatever they want afterwards. Like the saying says those who have money smells like Christ, but the one that is poor does not smell like Christ.”

 

Geovanni Brackett, President, COLA

Geovanni Brackett

“We have to take what is happening here today as a very serious action by the government to persecute these people. This is a very serious action that we should not take lightly. The government of Belize is using their laws in the wrong way to persecute innocent people. Those folks had to be fighting for officer Segura to be arrested. He is driving around today. Someone is dead, someone is paralyzed. And we are here to be persecuting innocent people. You ask me where is justice today.”

 

Nancy Marin

Nancy Marin, President, Belize People’s Front

“This country has one set of laws, one constitution, and it should be in the defence of the people. But it seems to us now that they are working on two different constitutions, one for the rich and one for the poor. These are poor people that should be working. They have lost half day of work and they will lose more because they will be dragged to the court and dragged to the court again.”

 

The law allows Police up to six months to charge for those specific crimes, which are classed as petty misdemeanours. But petty or not, Assistant Commissioner of Police Aaron Guzman says they broke the law, and it is a serious matter.

 

ACP Aaron Guzman, Western Regional Commander

ACP Aaron Guzman

“The law says that if more than five persons gather together for a common purpose and riotous behaviour…and if you notice there was blockage of the highway and buring of tires. There was stoning of the equipment that was brought in, stoning of the Fire Department, the Ministry of Works and the Police, by and large the security forces.”

 

Guzman says there is no malice involved, and reiterates that there was always the intention to charge the persons involved in the riot. For that purpose, Police photographers were assigned to collect evidence. He says that what was done on that day is called sensible Policing and a tremendous exercise of restraint, patience and tolerance.

 

ACP Aaron Guzman

“You saw that the riot unit was there, and there was a time when they were coming on to engage, and I told them no…step back! Because in this day and age, you do not fight fire with fire. So it is that in my opinion and the opinion of the other officers that were there, these people were gathered illegally. We told them that. As a person, or as a community, there are certain rights that you can exercise, but there are certain guidelines that you must go by. And that is the position where the Police Department is at. So it wouldn’t have been sensible to engage those folks out there. There were children out there, six, seven years old. If there was an engagement with the Police riot unit and the crowd, the children would have suffered because that’s the reality of dealing with riots.”

Thankfully no one was hurt on August nineteenth, and today’s Court proceeding was peaceful. Those charged must return to court for start of trial on February fifteenth. Mike Rudon reporting for News 5.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Fourteen Benqueños Charged With Rioting and Unlawful Assembly”

  1. Peter says:

    During the rioting and demonstrations in 2006, the PM famously encouraged “civil disobedience” as being part of our duties. But then it was against the PUP, it seems you are not allowed to do the same against the UDP…….interesting

  2. belizeanatheart says:

    I think channel 5 should do its investigation good, they are not Benqueños, but Succotzeños. please correct.

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