Mark Seawell Free after 10 Years, Dodges Extradition
A second Seawell sibling was set free today after an extradition request fell apart. Gary Seawell was released last November, and this morning after spending over a decade in prison, Mark Seawell was set free by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The process to get him off was long and arduous, but after walking up the steps of the Supreme Court countless times, today he walked down a free man when the CJ concluded that his detention was in fact illegal and a breach of his constitutional rights. The first stop for the man, who was locked up for ten years, was Brodies Supermarket, a stone’s throw away from the court. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
After a decade in detention, locked away tightly from the commotion of the free world, Mark Seawell was finally released from custody this morning, hard on the heels of a decision by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.
“What’s the feeling of freedom at the moment Mark?”
Mark Seawell, Freed
“I grateful mein, grateful. Grateful to be free.”
“It’s been ten years of fighting for freedom, talk to us about the experience of being held for this long and not being able to see your family and your loved ones.”
“A just grateful fu be free mein.”
The suspected drug runner had been on remand since 2007, when he was arrested by local law enforcement officers acting on a request by the U.S. State Department. Mark is one of three siblings wanted for his purported role in an international band of smugglers.
Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Mark Seawell
“Mark, as you will recall, he was arrested in February 2007, following on the warrant of apprehension being issued in December 2006. In Gary’s case, he was arrested in 2010. But, as it were, his extradition proceedings actually fast-tracked and proceeded quicker and faster than Mark. And so what happened, whilst Mark’s extradition process was still in the pipeline, Gary’s matter went to the Court of Appeal and you will recall that Court of Appeal’s landmark decision in November 2016 in which the Court of Appeal, without giving reason, had discharged Gary Seawell in respect to same matters which has arisen in Mark’s case.
Mark Seawell has languished in the Belize Central Prison for a little over ten years, each trip to Belize City was for the express purpose of going to court. Each court appearance saw the presence of heavily armed officers. Likewise, those appearances have also seen constant changes in his legal representation. To make matters worse, the committal warrant had been defective all along.
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Mark Seawell
“The document that Mark Seawell was being held in prison on was flawed. It was an error of law; therefore, every day that he was detained was an illegal detention. This man has been in prison for over ten years and he has been on an illegal warrant now for almost seven years.”
That unlawful authorization, as explained by attorney Anthony Sylvester, did not fall in with the exact requirements of the Extradition Act.
“Where a warrant of committal was issued by the Chief Magistrate and it has been shown and later has revealed that the warrant did not comply with the strict provisions of the Extradition Act and specifically in Mark’s case, it did not set out the offenses for which he is to be extradited. The learned Chief Justice ruled that that amounts to a breach of his constitutional right and is in contravention of the Extradition Act.”
Both brothers are once again free men, but will there be a move against government for their unlawful detention?
“Has he considered any recourse? As your client, have you discussed with him the possibilities of coming back for the state for time spent?”
“Well, that isn’t an issue which has been discussed as yet, but certainly with the pronouncement of the Chief Justice being made, I mean, that certainly would be looked at and be explored.”
“To answer the question about compensation, definitely the state itself should consider where they have taken away this man’s liberty for all these years if they want to compensate Mr. Seawell.”
“Sir, is there any concern at this stage that the US may make another attempt at extraditing your clients or do you all feel that this is the end?”
“I don’t speak for the U.S. government but what I can say is [that] for you to hold a man for ten years, hold him on an illegal warrant for so long and then try to come and re-arrest him would clearly be an abuse of process and that would be met with every legal challenge that we could muster.”
The duo’s brother, Duane Seawell, is serving a lengthy sentence in a U.S. jail after being spirited from Jamaica via extraordinary rendition several years ago. Gary and Mark were also represented by British barrister Ben Cooper, who traveled to Belize in their defense. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.