No start for the incitement case against Linton
By Ronalda Luke
While the incitement case against the United Workers Party (UWP) leader, Dr Thomson Fontaine, has begun, the matter against the party's former leader, Lennox Linton, has seen yet another adjournment.
This case stems from an incident that dates back to February 7, 2017. On that day, the UWP held a meeting on Kennedy Avenue in Roseau calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, succeeding at which time, numerous businesses were vandalized in the capital city. Several opposition members were subsequently charged with inciting violence and obstructing justice.
Charges were brought against other opposition members, including former Prime Minister Edison James and Dr Fontaine, former Deputy political leader of the UWP Joshua Francis, Nicholas George and former UWP Member of Parliament (now Speaker of the House of Assembly) Joseph Isaac. They were charged with obstruction of justice.
While the matter against James, Francis, George, and Isaac has been adjourned sine die (without a set date for resumption), Linton and Dr Fontaine are left to answer the charges, which are still before the court.
On April 28, 2023, the Preliminary Inquiry into the case against Dr Fontaine commenced.
Trinidadian attorneys Queen's Counsel Israel Khan and Daniel Khan, who is prosecuting the matter on the last occasion, informed the court of their intent to proceed with the case by way of paper committal.
At last week's hearing, the court heard legal arguments from his attorneys, Cara Shillingford-Marsh, Wayne Marsh and Tiyani Behanzin, and submissions from the prosecution.
The matter was subsequently adjourned to July 26, 2023. An application by Fontaine's attorneys seeking a variation in his bail was also granted.
The UWP's leader, a policy advisor to the government of South Sudan, was granted permission to travel to that country.
The variation order stated that he was to report to the court's jurisdiction on July 19, 2023, and surrender his travel documents to the court on that date. Accordingly, his matter was adjourned to July 26, 2023.
Meanwhile, former political leader of the UWP, Lennox Linton, is expressing dissatisfaction with the procedural delays of his matter.
On the same day, when Linton returned to court, his matter did not commence but saw another adjournment to September 14, 2023.
Four Magistrates have since recused themselves from Linton's case, including Magistrate Michael Laudat, who presides over Dr Fontaine's matter.
When the matter came before him last week, the Magistrate set the adjournment date for later this year before another Magistrate, which Linton says is highly annoying to him.
"This matter has been dragging on for more than five years, and it's at a stage of great frustration for me," he stressed. "But one of the reasons I wanted to have my day in court is so that my absolute innocence could be proven."
He continued, "I didn't want the case to go away in any technicality. I want us to go through the process for the evidence to be heard and for the matter to be fully adjudicated, and for it to be clear in everybody's mind that Lennox Linton did not incite anybody to do anything on February 7 2017, and therefore is not guilty of the charge of incitement."
On the other hand, he argued that this matter needs to be discontinued for want of prosecution since there is no evidence of incitement and insists that he is being politically prosecuted.
"That is what normal court systems do, and so that's a matter to be looked into…," Linton stated. "I mean, it's just going on and on and on and you wonder what brand of evil this is and what we are going to do about it?"
Linton described the matter as a "state-sponsored prosecution", adding: "This is the utilization of the people's hard-earned money to politically persecute people in the court, and the court system is permitting it."