A legal battle is now on as lawyers for Opposition leader Lennox Linton and Thomson Fontaine vow to fight a case of “incitement” brought by the police.
The matter was first adjourned to March 2019 but a request by the prosecution, led by Trinidadian senior Counsel, Israel Khan, saw the matter suddenly moved to November 22, 2018.
Roseau South MP and deputy leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), Joshua Francis, was absent sick and submitted a medical report to the court. However, Dr. Thomson Fontaine, who was summoned and served to appear in court was absent and his lawyer, Gildeon Richards, told the court that he was not able to account for Fontaine’s absence.
Khan requested a warrant for his arrest and Magistrate Asquith Riviere agreed and issued the warrant.
However, the day’s proceedings were not without drama. First, the court adjourned “sine die” the obstruction matters against Nicholas George, Lennox Linton, Joshua Francis and Joseph Isaac who were all present in court. But the charge for alleged incitement by opposition leader Linton was then read to him and adjourned to May 14, 2019.
The charged is that between January 22, 2017 and February 7, 2017 Linton unlawfully incited people…and jeopardized the public safety order and public peace following a public meeting in Roseau on February 7, 2017 calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, contrary to law.
Khan then told the court that “this matter is very serious and attracts international attention and should be determined as quickly as possible.”
“We are going via Paper Committal we have 64 police witnesses and 10 civilians, for both sides this matter is important. This man (Linton) is a potential Prime Minister. This matter should not be hanging over his head and he can’t go into an election with this hanging over his head,” Khan told the court as he objected to the May adjournment.
In response, Magistrate Riviere stated that the court is heavily burdened and has matters set for well into 2019. “If we have to give way to you, then we have to displace a lot of people,” Magistrate Riviere told Khan. Riviere then adjourned the matter to January 22, 2019 and set December 11, 2018 as the date by which the prosecution must deliver all its bundles to the defense. But defense counsel Richards stood up and objected to the January 22, 2019 date saying that given the number of witnesses, it would be impossible for him to handle that matter so soon. However, Riviere was not moved and kept the January 22, 2019 date.
“Your Honour, you are refusing to hear me and behalf of my client. I don’t think that you can and will be fair and so I am asking you to recuse yourself from the matter,” Richards said.
“I will not recuse myself,” Riviere responded.
Richards repeated his request and insisted that the magistrate recuse himself for the matter as he was being “patently biased towards his client” by refusing to listen to him on behalf of his client on a change of the adjournment date. He said he will take the matter to the high court.
Speaking to the press afterwards, Linton called the incitement charge “political, wicked and victimization.”
“We are under political persecution under the guise of criminal prosecution…we will fight this because the people of Dominica deserve to live in a better country than what Skerrit have us living in right now. There were no profanity and or incitement in what I said to the people of Dominica on February 7, 2017,” Linton said.
According to him, his speech was “clean and innocent” and the government is trying to “manufacture incitement out of those pro-democracy statements but we are not daunted.”
Khan, he said, is involved in the Labour Party politics of Dominica and knows how to manipulate the court since he Khan has a “sympathetic ear in the magistrate in the court.”
Past prime minister and former UWP leader, Edison James, was also charged with incitement but he has not been served.