Friday, February 27, 2015. AARON HUMES Reporting: Police are said to have detained but later released at least one person after missiles were thrown at Cayo North East area representative Elvin Penner as he was hounded by a group of protesters while he was leaving court this morning just after 10:30.
The former Minister of State for Immigration and Nationality was at the Supreme Court for a hearing on the inferior court appeal relating to his private prosecution for immigration-related offenses in the saga of South Korean businessman Won Hong Kim.
The attempt at a private prosecution of Penner was started by Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA president Geovannie Brackett and Nedal McLaren exactly one year ago today.
Penner was charged for falsely vouching for the fitness of Kim to be granted a passport and making a false statement in a material particular that he knew Kim personally at the time he made out his nationality certificate.
But in the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court last July the charges were thrown out for lack of evidence after Magistrate Aretha Ford did not exercise her discretion to summon Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie to court to disclose material evidence said to be in his possession – or chose not to exercise such discretion, as the other side puts it.
We will tell you shortly of how COLA’s attorney sees it, but first to the first public comment by Penner himself since the beginning of the scandal in September of 2013.
It was very limited and very direct – that he is satisfied with the progress of the case, and that the media should find something else to do with their time.
He mentioned indirectly the case of fellow parliamentarian Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez in Orange Walk which he considered a far greater sin than, apparently, his own.
At the conclusion of that interview, Penner strode unabashedly into a group of angry protesters, mostly wearing t-shirts that identified them as supporters of the People’s United Party (PUP) which had announced a protest at Battlefield Park near the court beginning earlier in the morning, headed for his vehicle.
The protesters let him have it with both barrels, demanding his jailing and getting physical with the area representative and former Minister of State.
At the end of it all he had faced down several missiles targeted at him, including eggs, some of which landed on media personnel chasing him down.
Police then carried a young man thought to have thrown one of the eggs but we are told he was later released.
At least one other person claimed to have been assaulted by police in the tumult surrounding Penner’s departure.
Upstairs we asked Kareem Musa, attorney for Brackett and McLaren, in light of the charges laid by Tricia Pitts-Anderson, Penner’s attorney that he had not laid foundation for the exercise of discretion by the Magistrate through the testimony and exhibits offered by Geovannie Brackett.
Musa told us that the foundation was properly laid and it was for the court to consider the importance of granting the request.
Of greatest concern to him is that Commissioner Whylie has sat on the file for more than a year now and even now, his statements to the press a few weeks ago that he “thought” that the file was complete and ready to be turned over are not enough.
As for the protesting, he says that COLA had nothing to do with it and the protestors were simply exercising their right to be heard on an issue of national importance and passion.
For his part, Brackett says today’s hearing is the apex of a long and hard fight – which he has no doubt that he will win despite their many challenges.
It is about justice across the board, he says, because Penner is no different from any other Belizean who has had to face the court on criminal matters.
Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin will deliver his decision on March 13.
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