The police’s detention of 15 people in connection with an alleged terror plot to disrupt the recently concluded Carnival celebrations has already begun to cost the State.
High Court Judge Frank Seepersad yesterday ordered the State to pay $6,100 in legal costs incurred by Alisha Thomas in filing a habeas corpus writ challenging her lengthy detention as part of the ongoing investigation.
Thomas and her husband Adil Mansano were among the initial group detained for questioning in relation to the alleged plot and were eventually released after almost a week in custody.
The couple’s writs were eventually withdrawn as they were charged with possession of a component of a firearm, in a gun cleaning kit, which was allegedly found at their San Juan home at the time of their arrest.
Mansano received half of his legal costs when his case was withdrawn on February 15, but Seepersad only considered his wife’s case yesterday.
In his oral decision, Seepersad ruled that investigators from the T&T Police Service’s Special Branch couldn’t justify why they failed to charge Thomas for the kit shortly after it was recovered. He also noted that police could not justify keeping Thomas for almost six days. While he acknowledged investigations into terrorism are complex and cannot be completed in a short period of time, he said detentions should be just and reasonable.
“The authorities are obligated to treat the information and intelligence received and conduct a thorough investigation... Ultimately, the rights of all citizens have to be protected,” Seepersad said as he noted that terrorism threats were not trivial.
Seepersad suggested that a 48-hour detention period was fair, but said additional time could be justified depending on the circumstances of each case.
The couple’s possession case is still pending and is due to come up for hearing on March 16. The T&T Guardian understands the couple and the other freed detainees are currently considering filing false imprisonment lawsuits against the State. However, they are in no rush as they have four years in which to do so under the Limitation of Certain Actions Act.
Thomas was represented by Mario Merritt and Kirby Joseph.