Lawyers for Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab press Cape Verde authorities to release him as his living condition worsens

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Lawyers and advocates seeking the release of Venezuelan businessman Alex Saab have expressed worry over the blatant disregard of the rights of the man.

Mr. Alex Saab, who is also an ambassador, is under house arrest in Cape Verde, where heavily armed soldiers have been stationed at the residence.

His lawyers have been denied access to him most of the time, an act that has never been meted out to people under house arrest in Cape Verde.

“The Ambassador is surrounded by soldiers and police who live next door and monitor him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These soldiers carry machine guns even when delivering his meals. With respect to his ability to communicate with his lawyers and family the conditions are more restricted than Cape Verde has historically made available to convicted criminals,” a press statement issued by Mr. Saab’s team lamented.

It added that Ambassador Saab is prohibited from accessing the Internet, cannot write to his family without the correspondence being read by the police and as for his right to privileged conversations with his lawyers these can only take place with drones flying overhead if they step outside into the yard.

The situation has been made dire as requests to seek medical attention for Mr. Saab have not seen any response from Regional National Police Commander, Commander Orlando Evora.

Below is the full press statement

PRESS RELEASE

Regarding house arrest conditions

4 February, 2021; Island of Sal, Cape Verde

On 25 January, 2021, Ambassador and Special Envoy Alex Saab was transferred from the Sal prison where he was being held, to a location where he has been placed under house arrest.

The Ambassador’s legal team wishes to place on record that the conditions of his house arrest are completely irregular, and they continue to directly affect his health and his right to defense and are significantly worse than those afforded in the past to convicted drug traffickers in Cape Verde.

The Ambassador is surrounded by soldiers and police who live next door and monitor him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These soldiers carry machine guns even when delivering his meals.

With respect to his ability to communicate with his lawyers and family the conditions are more restricted than Cape Verde has historically made available to convicted criminals. Ambassador Saab is prohibited from accessing the Internet, cannot write to his family without the correspondence being read by the police and as for his right to privileged conversations with his lawyers these can only take place with drones flying overhead if they step outside into the yard. The only telephone that he can use is one belonging to the police, who must be present during the two hours of permitted use, to monitor the Ambassador’s conversations. To date, requests to be examined by specialist doctors of his choice have gone unanswered.

All of this is not only in direct defiance of the 2 December 2020 binding unanimous order of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, but flies against all accepted standards of house arrest for an unconvicted person and certainly unacceptable for a diplomatic agent. This is leaving aside the fact that as an Ambassador and Special Envoy Alex Saab cannot be held in any form of restrictive custody.

The defense team repeats that the conditions under which the so-called house arrest of Ambassador Saab is being conducted are outrageous, for example:

  1. Lawyers cannot have privileged communications with their client.
  1. Commander Orlando Evora, Regional National Police Commander, has not responded to requests for the specialist medical attention and medical examination Ambassador Saab as a cancer patient requires.
  1. Communication with the family is only permitted for a short period each day and only then with the use of mobile phone belonging to the police and the conversations being held in the presence of the police.
  1. Members of Ambassador Saab’s security team, which is monitoring the activity of the soldiers and police, are being arrested every day on the premise of ID verification despite being presented with ID cards at the time of arrest and taken to the police station where they were harassed.

These are just more irregularities in a long line of irregularities which began on 12 June 2020 with the illegal arrest of Ambassador and Special Envoy Alex Saab.

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