Headline — 06 August 2013 — by Rochelle Gillett
The extradition of Khaled El Turk, 36, overturned

El Turk was arrested and remanded to the Belize Central Prison on October 16, 2012, on the strength of a provisional warrant for importing pseudoephedrine into the United States

Khaled El Turk, 36, a Belizean originally from Lebanon, was detained and remanded to the Belize Central Prison on October 18, 2012, after police received information from the United States that El Turk was wanted by the US authorities.

El Turk remained in prison for over one month before the Belize Embassy in Washington D.C. sent a request to Belize stating that they wished to extradite him. The documents were presented to the court on December 19, 2012, citing that extradition for El Turk was related to two indictments, namely (1) that El Turk conspired to import pseudoephedrine into the US; and (2) that El Turk imported pseudoephedrine into the US, with both counts, once he was found guilty of them, requiring a sentence of imprisonment for not more than ten years.

The US, through the Office of the Solicitor General, namely Magali Perdomo, assisted by Iliani Swift, contended that El Turk had committed extraditable offenses under the laws of both the requesting State (US) and the requested country (Belize).

According to the affidavit from the US, El Turk had engaged in illegally shipping large quantities of pseudoephedrine from Bangladesh to Mexico, and that he was a part of a group that illegally shipped pseudoephedrine from Bangladesh to Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

After a great many adjournments, this morning the Chief Magistrate gave her ruling on the matter. In her six-page decision, she highlighted the reasons for her denying the request from the US. In it, she said that “Having perused the documents and listened to Counsel on both sides, it is very clear that the offenses do not amount to an extraditable offense in Belize.”

Since it was then determined that the offenses did not amount to extraditable offenses, the Chief Magistrate said that the court was then asked to view “the offense of conduct” of El Turk. However, the court was of the view that the offense of conduct was not disclosed in the documents which accompanied the extradition request.

Another reason for the dismissal was that, as was listed in the reply of one of El Turk’s two attorneys, Edwin Flowers, SC (the other was Anthony Sylvester), pseudoephedrine and methamphetamine are substances for which proof of their nature cannot be given by a lay person; it must be by an expert, and there was no scientific evidence in the extradition bundle proving that El Turk was involved in the production of methamphetamine.

The final reason given by the Chief Magistrate for her decision was the issue of authentication, as is stated in Article 7(a) of the Extradition Treaty under the Admissibility of Documents. That article states that “in the case of a request from the United States, they are to be authenticated by an officer of the United States Department of State and are certified by the principal diplomatic or consular officer of Belize resident in the United States.”

She said that after she perused the documents that were submitted on behalf of the US, she found that the principal diplomat or consular officer of Belize resident in the US did not certify the documents as per the Treaty mandate.

In closing, the Chief Magistrate then said that the US and GOB did not make out a prima facie case for the extradition of El Turk to the US and “He must therefore be discharged and is free to go”.

After learning his fate, El Turk burst into what were definitely tears of joy, as he hugged his friend Amrush “Amir” Zriba. Zriba was initially arrested along with El Turk, but was released shortly thereafter.

In an interview with El Turk this afternoon, he expressed his relief at being vindicated after having had his name associated with drug production. He also told us that he is happy to be free after being locked up for ten months, knowing that he was innocent of everything that was being alleged about him.

El Turk told us that although he has lost more than $40,000 US after his produce spoiled inside the container, he still wants to reestablish himself and build up back his name by planting garbanzo beans (chick peas) and exporting it to his birth land.

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