PM Says Gov’t won’t Abandon Legal Principle Taken in Coke Extradition Issue


Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding said Tuesday September 14, that Jamaica would continue to pursue what it considered a breach of its extradition agreement with the United States, despite the extradition of Christopher Coke at the end of June.
Mr. Golding said that while his Government had no interest in being uncooperative with the United States in pursuing criminal offenders, whatever is done must be consistent with the laws of Jamaica.
“This is what we are now seeking to resolve with the US authorities,” Mr. Golding told ten editors from major media sources at a press briefing on the controversial extradition issue at Jamaica House.
Answering questions, Mr. Golding insisted that a “fundamental violation” of the law was committed in the process of the Coke extradition. However, he explained that the continuation of the discussions has nothing to do with the current trial of Coke before a United States’ court.
“But, certainly, in order to ensure that we don’t run into this kind of difficulty with future requests,” he explained.
Mr. Golding said that the issue of intercepted evidence used in extradition matters would have to be resolved. However, he said that, in fairness the US authorities were cooperating, and he was pleased that the engagement of its Department of Justice has moved to a higher level.
The Prime Minister stated that, although the Jamaican Constitution allows the interception of communications in particular circumstances, the Interception of Communications Act states clearly that it must be preceded by an order from a judge. The order must relate to the specific telephone numbers being tapped, and the information gathered can only be made available to persons named by the judge.
He said that in Mr. Coke’s case, the information was disclosed to the United States’ authorities without an order from a judge. He said that this was critical, because the Act passed by Parliament restricted the distribution of the information.
Mr. Golding said that the Government had indicated to the United States that it was prepared to discuss the need for an amendment to the Act to reduce what the US may consider as “inconveniences, impediments”.
He noted that Jamaica has had several bad experiences with extraditions to the United States, including in the case of Richard “Storyteller” Morrison, who was tried in the United States on charges different from those for which he was extradited in 1992.
“We have to be careful that we do not ignore these transgressions, because we don’t know where it will end; we don’t know what further transgressions will take place,” Mr. Golding cautioned.
He noted that there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between former Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, and the US in 2005, which allows for an exchange of information, “provided that the information shared under this agreement can only be used for intelligence purposes”. He said that if this information was to be used for evidential purposes it must be obtained pursuant to Jamaican laws.
He said he could not understand why it was being argued that “because it involves somebody from your own party and your own constituency, therefore leave it alone”.
Asked why the Government had relented and signed the extradition order for Mr. Coke to be extradited in the circumstances, Mr. Golding said that decision was triggered by pressure from the public and the media which almost paralysed the country.
“The Government faced a crisis and in that crisis you have to respond, you have to take a decision. So it was not an abandonment of that legal principle, but it was the recognition of what emerged as an almost irresistible force that caused us to take that decision,” he said.
He added that the discussions were continuing, and that a meeting was to be held with the U.S. authorities soon on the matter.

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