Cape Verde Parliamentarians Express Worry Over Alex Saab’s safety

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Some parliamentarians in the Cape Verdean parliament have expressed worry over the safety of Alex Saab, a businessman and ‘special envoy’ of Venezuela in detention.

One of the leaders of the African Party for Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), Rui Semedo, on Thursday said the continued detention of the businessman is a big threat to his health.

During the sitting, Mr Semedo asked about Mr Saab’s health status and why the government has denied him “free access” to defense lawyers, communication with his family, and health care.

He stated that if proper care is not taken, Mr Saab’s health condition might get further deteriorated because he has been under detention since June 2020 and in pre-trial detention since late January.

“I leave this questioning because if Mr. Alex Saab has a setback due to lack of care from the Cape Verde state, we could have very serious problems,” Mr Semedo said.

In his response, Paulo Rocha, minister of Internal Administration, stated that it is a case for the courts.

“I don’t know why they didn’t ask the courts. He is an individual who is in prison, this has nothing to do with the government. He was released from prison and put under house arrest, he is under the custody of the police, who are complying with all judicial determinations,” Mr Rocha said.

While this was on, under strong political tension, with the approach of legislative elections in Cape Verde, scheduled for April 18, Mr Semedo who replies the accusations said  “One wonders, if it was the PAICV in the government, if it would take a different attitude, if it would neutralize the courts and take over the case. What’s the point of this defense, sir,”

The defense of Mr Saab had denounced on February 4 that the Colombian businessman is under “outrageous conditions” under house arrest and that his security team is being held daily by the Cape Verdean police.

According to a statement sent to Lusa, the defense of the businessman, led by former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, recalled that Alex Saab, was transferred from the prison of Sal, where he was detained since June, to a place where he was placed under house arrest on the same island, but in “completely irregular” conditions that “continue to directly affect his health and his right to defense.

“They are significantly worse than those previously granted to convicted drug traffickers in Cape Verde. The ambassador is surrounded by soldiers and police officers who live next door and watch him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These soldiers carry machine guns even when delivering his meals,” the defense denounced in the statement.

It says the conditions for  Mr Saab’s communication with his lawyers and family members are more restricted than those Cape Verde has historically made available to convicted criminals.

How it started

Mr Saab, 49, was arrested on June 12 by Interpol and the Cape Verdean authorities during a technical stopover at Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the island of Sal, based on an international arrest warrant issued by the United States of America (USA), when he was returning from a trip to Iran on behalf of Venezuela.

The Barlavento Court of Appeal has already ruled twice – the last time in January, both times on
appeal by the defense – for the extradition of Alex Saab to the US.

The Venezuelan government is demanding the release of Alex Saab, guaranteeing that when he was arrested in Sal he had diplomatic immunity, so Cape Verde could not have allowed this process.

Irregularities

In the list of “irregularities” pointed out, the defense stressed the fact that lawyers cannot have “privileged communications” with their client and that “members of Ambassador Saab’s security  team,” which “is monitoring the activity of soldiers and police,” are “detained every day on the premise of identity verification.”

“The only phone he can use is the police phone, which must be present during the two hours of permitted use, to monitor the ambassador’s conversations,” the defense added, recalling that to date all requests to be seen by medical specialists of “his choice” have gone “unanswered,” despite his being an oncology patient.

Conditions that the defense has no qualms in calling is “outrageous”, the statement said, All of these are not only in direct defiance of the unanimous binding order of December 2, 2020, of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),  and that it is also contrary to all accepted standards of house arrest for an unconvicted person and certainly unacceptable for a diplomatic agent.

In this case, the US, which is asking for the extradition of the Colombian, accuses Alex Saab of having laundered 350 million dollars (295 million euros) to pay for acts of corruption of the Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, through the US financial system.

In a written interview with Lusa from jail on January 8, the Colombian said he is “innocent” of the U.S. accusations, calling it “ridiculous” that he is pointed out as a front man for Nicolás Maduro.

“I can say categorically: yes, I am innocent,” Mr Saab was quoted.

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