He was imprisoned for 2,376 days on a US extradition request
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 7, 2018– An unusual lawsuit for false imprisonment has been filed at the Supreme Court Registry by Belizean Mark Seawell, who was the subject of a United States extradition request and was imprisoned on a related arrest warrant for 2,376 days, for which he is now seeking damages.
Seawell, 48, named in his claim as defendants the Attorney General of Belize and the Superintendent of Prisons.
Mark Seawell was released from prison on April 6 last year, on a writ of habeas corpus that was granted by Belize Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin.
Apart from damages, the Seawell lawsuit is claiming “interest on all sums due to him, costs, interest, legal practitioner fixed cost on issue, together with interest date of judgment.”
The US government requested the extradition of Seawell because of activities that occurred between 1994 and 1997. Seawell allegedly organized a group of individuals to sell marijuana in Texas and Ohio, and import quantities of cocaine from Belize through Mexico for distribution to the Columbus, Ohio area.
The court papers filed at the Supreme Court indicated that Seawell was charged with various crimes by grand juries sitting in Columbus, Ohio. He was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, conspiracy to commit money laundering, laundering of monetary instruments, unlawful importation of cocaine into the United States, and unlawful attempt to possess with intent to distribute and operate a continuing criminal enterprise.
Seawell’s extradition case began in the Magistrate’s Court of Chief Magistrate Margaret McKenzie and concluded on September 30, 2011.
The Chief Magistrate committed Seawell to the Kolbe Foundation (Belize Central Prison), pending his extradition to the US.
Seawell filed for a writ of habeas corpus at the Supreme Court in 2011, and this application was heard on April 6, 2017.
Chief Justice Benjamin found that Seawell was imprisoned contrary to provisions of the Belize Constitution, and his release was ordered.
In his lawsuit, Seawell is claiming that the Superintendent of Prison did not have the legal justification to keep him in prison for the 2,376 days that he was in prison.
In their defense the government solicitor, Agassi Finnegan, said that although the Chief Justice found Seawell’s imprisonment was unlawful because of an error in the committal warrant, the committal to prison was done by virtue of judicial process.
The government is also basing its defense on the fact that “judicial immunity gives effect to systemic public interest consideration, the most important of which is the independence of the judiciary,” the defense filed by the government said.
The government defense also noted that Seawell brought the claim under private law “and not any remedy under public law for judicial breaches.”
Within the defense filed by the government is an application to strike out Seawell’s claim.
Seawell’s case will be heard at the end of this month before Madam Justice Shona Griffith, who will decide if the claim will go forward or if it will be struck out.
Seawell’s lawsuit is being handled by attorney Anthony Sylvestre from the law firm of Musa and Balderamos, and the claim has been numbered 213 of 2018.