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Jul 27, 2004

Solicitor General arrested in U.S.

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It?s an embarrassment that?s sure to sting Belmopan–not to mention the rest of us–for months to come: a high ranking official of the judiciary led away in handcuffs by Uncle Sam. That?s right. On Sunday afternoon, Solicitor General Elson Kaseke was on an American Airlines flight from Miami to Reagan National Airport in Washington DC when he was arrested and detained. Today he appeared before a judge to answer charges stemming from the incident that occurred aboard the plane while it was in the air. According to American Airlines spokesperson Tim Wagner, two passengers got into a verbal altercation during which one attempted to move to another area of the aircraft. That person has been identified to News 5 as Solicitor General Elson Kaseke. As has become a mandatory regulation following 9/11, no one is allowed to get up a half hour before the plane begins its descent into the Washington area. That?s when the aircraft?s crew asked Kaseke to sit down. But apparently the SolGen, emboldened by the influence of alcohol, vigorously disputed the suggestion of the flight attendants. The incident climaxed when two security officers confronted Kaseke, physically detaining him and bringing the entire situation under control. According to Wagner, the flight had a normal landing and upon arriving at the terminal, the offending passenger was handed over to local law enforcement authorities. Based on reports made by the flight attendants and crew, the airline says the incident will go down on their records as customer misconduct, having involved a verbal altercation. Officials in the Attorney General?s Ministry tell News 5 that Kaseke was held in custody and appeared before a judge today represented by legal counsel. Kaseke is charged with obstruction of justice and interfering with the operation of an aircraft. Latest information to News 5 is that late this evening, bail in the sum of five thousand U.S. dollars was being processed for the SolGen. He is said to be on his way back home and will spend tonight in Miami. Kaseke first came to Belize from Zimbabwe in the mid-1990S, working as a crown counsel, and over the last decade rose through the ranks to become government?s top lawyer and legal administrator. Kaseke and a Belizean crown counsel were enroute to a week of O.A.S. meetings in Washington when the incident occurred. While the ordeal and what will likely be a fine will soon be a distant memory to the embarrassed attorney, it is noteworthy that if convicted as a felon, his U.S. visa would be cancelled. As for whether he will keep his job, that?s up to his boss, Attorney General Eamon Courtenay who is currently on holiday.

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