Published On: Mon, Jun 9th, 2014

Trinidad minister denies confirming detained Muslims have terrorist links

mns2_6PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- The minister of national security, Senator Gary Griffith, has denied recent claims by opposition Senator Nafeesa Mohammed that the government of Trinidad and Tobago sent correspondence to Venezuelan authorities confirming that recently detained Muslim nationals were linked to terrorism.

The minister noted that this continues to be a sensitive national security matter, which is warranting the undivided attention of the government. He added that the comments of the opposition senator were disappointing, especially as the Islamic community has been kept updated and informed by the relevant ministry of national security agency throughout the entire process.

Griffith pointed out that ever since the government was apprised of the detention of a party of Trinidad and Tobago nationals in Venezuela on allegations involving terrorism and migration, the ministry of national security has been engaged in proactive negotiations with officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Agency (SEBIN) to procure their release.

There has been constant dialogue and updates among the Venezuelan authorities, ministry of national security agencies and key members of the Islamic community, he said.

He reiterated the immediate response of the government to deploy a military aircraft from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force with a high level delegation to go to Venezuela and begin deliberations, with the intent of seeking the release of the detained Trinidad and Tobago nationals.

Such negotiations resulted in the successful release of eight children and six adults from the group on 28 March 2014, while three Imams were subsequently released on 25 April 2014.

Regarding the nationals still currently detained in Venezuela, the ministry further advised that, based on the exchange of information between the Venezuelan authorities and the government of Trinidad and Tobago, information was received that the following items were discovered when the rooms of the currently detained nationals were searched:

• Two satellite phones;
• Twenty mobile phones;
• Two laptops;
• Six tablets;
• Army-type uniforms;
• Combat paraphernalia;
• Firearm training paraphernalia and other instructional material; and
• Telephone video of several of the currently detained persons in firearms training in Caracas.

As a result, these remaining nationals are still detained in Venezuela. Understanding the emotional issues surrounding this matter and the need to expedite actions related to their release, the minister stated that the sovereignty of Venezuela must be respected and that all due investigations must be allowed to run their course with respect to the constitutional laws of that country.

“The government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to explore all available avenues in the process of securing the release of our remaining citizens in Venezuela,” Griffith said.

Griffith invited the Islamic community to work with the government in this process and to indicate to him if there was anything within his capacity as minister of national security that was not yet done or considered to assist the detained nationals.

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