Dudus loses first extradition fight

Fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke failed
in his Supreme Court bid to get hounding security forces off his back. The
court threw out Coke’s application for a Judicial Review of the decision to begin
extradition proceedings against him, ending speculation over the potential
turmoil had he won.

Had leave been granted, there would
have been a stay of the warrant issued for Coke’s arrest on May 18, after
Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne gave the authority to start extradition
proceedings against the former Tivoli Gardens strongman, who is wanted in the
United States on drugs and gun-trafficking charges.

Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, who
heard the application, said that in order for Coke to make a request for Judicial
Review, a case for his extradition to the United States would have to first be
made out in the Resident Magistrate’s court.

“In accordance with the
procedure laid down in the Extradition Act, on apprehension or surrender of the
applicant (Coke), he would be taken before a Resident Magistrate’s court for a
hearing. If a prima facie case for his extradition is made out, the resident
magistrate is required to advise him of his right to apply for habeas corpus
within 15 days, to enable the matter to be brought before the Supreme
Court,” McCalla wrote in her 22-page opinion.

The ruling comes as members of the
security forces intensify their efforts to apprehend the former West Kingston
area leader.

Coke has been on the run since 24 May
when the security forces raided the barricaded community of Tivoli Gardens to
execute the warrant and restore law and order to the area, following unprovoked
attacks on security personnel from gunmen loyal to Coke.

Police said that 73 civilians and a
member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed during the three-day incursion
into the garrison enclave, which is the heart of Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s
West Kingston constituency.

More than 50 civilians and security
personnel were injured and 74 assorted weapons and 13,000 rounds of ammunition
recovered, police said.

McCalla’s ruling is in sync with
arguments put forward last week by Lightbourne, who was the first respondent on
Coke’s application, and second respondent Paula Llewellyn, the director of public
prosecutions, who represents the US in extradition matters in the Jamaican
courts.

The chief justice said in her
ruling that had Coke subjected himself to the jurisdiction of the court he
would have been able to avail himself of alternative remedies under the Extradition
Act, other than applying for Judicial Review.

In applying for the Judicial
Review, Coke’s lawyer cited Lightbourne’s nine-month refusal to sign the
extradition request and her taking the matter to court herself to block the
process, before making an about-turn under public pressure.

Don Foote, who appeared along with
attorney Paul Beswick, said that the ruling would be appealed.

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Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke
Photo: Jamaica Gleaner