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May 9, 2022

Cubans Wanting Amnesty to Find Out Their Fate around Month’s End

The seven Cubans who wanted to seek amnesty in Belize will know their fate around the end of the month. That is how long it will take the two sides in the matter to present their closing submissions and counter submissions before the presiding judge makes her ruling. News Five’s Marion Ali attended the morning’s proceedings. Here’s her report on that matter.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Three immigration officers took the witness stand today in the case of the Cubans versus the state. Leandro Quischan, Angie Palacio and Albert Munnings told the court that, contrary to what the Cubans claim, they informed them upon their detention in February what their offense was after they entered Belize illegally, as well as what course of action would follow. The Cubans sought the Human Rights Commission of Belize to take up a case against the state on grounds that they were not properly informed of their offense. They also claim that certain rights were violated: that is, that they were not afforded a phone call while in detention, that they were not informed in the Spanish language so they could properly understand what repercussions accompanied their illegal entry into Belize, that they would be charged and taken before the court, and also that they had a right to an attorney. Upon cross-examination in court today, Munnings revealed that one of the twin daughters for Yenicen del Toro Perez – a twelve year-old, who had tested positive for COVID when they were detained, was quarantined in a holding cell at the Corozal Police Station because there was nowhere else available at the time. He also said that a similar quarantine setting was provided for Niurisleidys Garcia, one of the Cuban women who was pregnant at the time and who also tested positive for COVID. Munnings also told the court that at the time when the Cubans were apprehended, the Magistrate who dealt with their case did ask whether the Immigration authorities had contacted the Refugee Department since the Cubans had made it known that they did not want to return to Cuba. Munnings replied that they did but that the office had indicated it was not accepting applications for amnesty at the time because of the COVID restrictions that were in place. The Magistrate who dealt with the matter had no option but to issue an order of removal for the Cubans from Belize after they had paid their fines, having pleaded guilty to “Failing to Produce a Valid Visitor’s Permit upon Demand.” But the Cubans admit that they have been resisting returning to Cuba. Hence, they have been kept at the Belize Central Prison until the case is through and their fate is known. Today, Justice Lisa Shoman said that based on the case presented, her task is only to determine whether or not the state has imprisoned the Cubans unlawfully. She pointed out that there is nothing to show that the Cubans have applied for amnesty or that anybody has done so on their behalf. She ordered that Lead Attorney for the Cubans, Leo Bradley Junior follows up to ensure that all the Cubans’ human rights are taken care of while they remain in detention.


Marion Ali for News Five.

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