Cubans accused of conspiracy offered bail

Three Cubans accused of conspiracy to defeat Cayman’s Immigration Laws were offered bail in Grand Court on 21 December.

Raul Garcia Hurtado, Delvis Martinez Relova and Angel Thomas Dieguez were brought to court after Attorney Stephen Hall-Jones applied for a writ of habeas corpus. By this action the Director of the Prison Service was required to produce the three men before Mr. Justice Alex Henderson.

The men had appeared in Summary Court two days earlier to have the charge against them committed to Grand Court.

The charge arose after the men allegedly gained access to the tarmac at Owen Roberts International Airport by presenting boarding passes for a flight to Cayman Brac. They then allegedly attempted to board a flight bound for Miami.

After committing the matter to Grand Court, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale refused a bail application made on the Cubans’ behalf by Mr. Hall-Jones.

She did so on the basis that the men had been here on visitor’s permits, but that permission had expired.

Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn objected to bail. The most serious reason was the risk that the men would flee before their trial.

In Grand Court on Thursday, Mr. Justice Henderson said his role in a habeas corpus application was to determine the validity of the men’s detention.

After hearing submissions from Mr. Hall-Jones and Crown Counsel, Mr. Justice Henderson ruled that the Cubans’ detention was lawful.

He said habeas corpus should not be substituted for making bail applications, but if it was brought for other reasons one possible order the court could make was bail.

With the men in custody since 29 August and the time they might spend awaiting trial, the judge said it would be appropriate to release them on bail if the surety were sufficient.

Mr. Hall-Jones said each defendant had a relative in Cayman who was a property owner.

Dieguez, 56, has two nieces here, one of whom is married to a Caymanian. Relova, 28, has his mother here and she has status. Hurtado, 31, has an uncle who is naturalised.

The judge set surety at $100,000 each and said it must be in the form of cash, bearer bond or some other negotiable instrument. The men are also to report to police daily and observe a curfew from 7pm to 7am.

Crown Counsel Vicki Ellis asked for costs on the basis that much work had to be done to prepare for a habeas corpus hearing that had not been necessary. She said what had taken place was a bail application.

The judge said the habeas corpus application could have succeeded if a defect in the charge had been more pronounced.

His earlier ruling, that the men were being lawfully detained, was reached after he determined that the charge against the men was valid.

One argument had been that the charge was so vague that it should be quashed.

The judge said a charge must set out sufficient details for a defendant to defend himself.

In his view, the charge against the Cubans should have had greater particularity. But this was not an elemental defect; it was a mere irregularity that had been cured when the matter was committed to Grand Court.

The men were charged with conspiracy to effect an unlawful purpose. The particulars were that they, on or about 29 August, within the Cayman Islands, did jointly conspire with other persons unknown to effect an unlawful purpose, namely to defeat the Immigration Laws of the Cayman Islands.

Committal papers cited the section of the Immigration Law dealing with presentation of passport when entering and leaving the Islands.

The judge said it would be highly unusual to award the Crown costs in a habeas corpus application because everyone has the right to challenge his detention.

In this case, he told Mr. Hall-Jones, there had been a lot of extraneous material submitted and a lot of time was probably wasted.