The controversial incitement case against former Prime Minister Edison James, former United Workers Party (UWP) senator Dr. Thomson Fontaine and Opposition Leader Lennox Linton, was adjourned to June 11, 2019 and presiding magistrate Asquith Riviere has issued a ban on the media and the general public coming to court and listening to the matter.
Linton was present in court today but James, who has not been served, was absent and a warrant remains in effect for Dr. Thomson Fontaine.
Lead counsel for Linton, Gildon Richards, told the court that he was not properly served with court documents and asked that the matter be adjourned for that to happen.
“You have to file the documents in open court and then serve me but that was not done. We want to have the same documents that were filed since we intend to cross examine all 64 witnesses,” Richards told the court.
He also gave judicial notice that he also intends to file a ‘no case submission’.
In response, Magistrate Riviere explained that his role was not as “judge and jury”.
“My role is to find if there is a premia facie case…I am not trying the matter,” he said. He also admonished SC Israel Khan who stated that this matter is “bigger than murder and has regional and international implications and the world was watching.”
“I am not presiding over a political case and I hope counsel on both sides get that. I am presiding over a normal trial and I want counsel on both sides to allow me to do my job as I know it. I am following the Magistrates Code of Procedures Act,” Riviere said and then stated that come June 11, 2019 the matter is “closed to the general public.”
Speaking to the press after the adjournment, Richards stated that “the prosecution obviously was not ready to enable us or the court to proceed so the court has ordered the prosecution to put their house in order and we will be back in court on June 11, 2019. You also heard certain things being said in court including an admonition that members of the public will not be entertained further in this matter.”
He continued, “I believe that notwithstanding the fact that someone may have statutory discretion but the law is clear that no statutory discretion must be exercised unreasonably. I say it without a doubt and with deep conviction that the order by the Magistrate (Asquith Riviere) that the public should not attend this hearing again is very, very troubling.”
Richards called it “troubling not only for us (defense) but also for you (the press) and every Dominican. Your business as a journalist is to see that every Dominican gets a fair trial. My client asked for a seat saying he was not feeling well but was refused by the magistrate. We intend to cross examine all 64 witnesses,” Richards stated.
Meantime, SC Israel Khan said “he was not aware of the practice.”
“I was aware of the law…it seems that the practice is going against the law. It is an important matter dealing with the leader of the opposition and it needs to be expedited this is a potential Prime Minister. This is more important than murder…this charge is bordering on treason and the country should know if the potential Prime Minister has anything hanging over his head,” Khan said.
He continued, “I don’t know the date of the general elections in Dominica. I thought it was September 2019. I am a lawyer not politician. I am not satisfied as to how the matter went today I have my own schedule also. I don’t represent the State, I represent the Police in this matter and the State will be paying my legal fees.”
He added, “This country is am impoverished country. The Caribbean is watching. The statement I see submitted by the police is an extremely strong case all be it circumstantial. Skerrit must go…but by the ballot.”