Photo: Bladen 12 case held at the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 5, 2024
The highly anticipated trial of the “Bladen 12”, the group accused of involvement in a significant drug plane landing in the Bladen Nature Reserve area in the Toledo District, in November 2021, has been adjourned yet again. Initially scheduled to start on January 29, it had been adjourned until today, February 5, but it still did not get under way.
The trial, which includes five police officers among the defendants, was set to progress today, February 5, but has now been rescheduled to Monday, February 12.
The court’s decision to adjourn was influenced by the need for a voir dire to determine the admissibility of caution statements from two accused individuals. Defense attorney Oscar Selgado, who represents four of the accused, indicated that the statements are alleged to have been obtained involuntarily, prompting a necessary legal examination.
“The court has asked from certain defense attorneys whether or not we will start with a voir dire because two caution statements were solicited and were granted from two defendants,” Selgado explained. “So, I believe we will start with a voir dire to see whether or not those caution statements will be admitted into evidence.”
Senior Magistrate Baja Shoman, who is overseeing the case at the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building—a relocation from the usual venue on Coney Drive due to space constraints—is expected to manage a complex trial, with approximately 60 witnesses to be called. Selgado has only agreed to 47 witnesses.
“This will be a very difficult trial for the magistrate and for the prosecutor because, while it is that I have agreed to 47 statements to be read in, the other attorneys will not necessarily agree to those same witnesses, because the evidence is different or the statements are different. The evidence will affect each client, each defendant differently,” he explained.
Leading the prosecution is Alifa Elrington, Head of the Prosecution Branch, while the defense is composed of a team of experienced attorneys, including Dickie Bradley, Leroy Banner, and Lynden Jones.
Due to the case having such a high-level profile, the public was confused to learn of the initial resistance to media access in the courtroom based on its location and restrictions within the precinct of the Family Court.
However, after media personnel sought urgent intervention from the Chief Magistrate, it was decided that the media would be permitted to attend. This decision came too late for the day’s proceedings, as the trial had been adjourned by the time reporters returned to the venue.
The “Bladen 12”, consisting of Armando Martinez, Moises Adan Perez, Juan Esparza Sanchez, Heinrich Redecop, Johan Wall, Fredy Orlando Gongora, Adonis Campos, Efrain Cano, Delwin Casimiro, Nelson Middleton, Jr., George Ferguson, and former officer Elmer Nah, face serious charges.
These include two counts of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply, conspiracy to land a plane at an unlicensed aerodrome, and abetment of the importation of a controlled drug, following the discovery of over 760 kilograms of cocaine.