Election fraud hearing postponed for two months on St. Maarten

TUESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2014

PHILIPSBURG--Judge Coen Luijks decided Monday to postpone the hearing in the so-called Masbangu case involving election fraud, until April 14.

He ordered the Prosecutor’s Office to reopen the investigations where the involvement of United People’s (UP) party is concerned. The additional investigations led attorney-at-law Cor Merx to file a recusal request against the Judge.

This case concerns possible irregularities during the first general election in Country St. Maarten, which was held September 17, 2010.

(Former) officials of the then Police Force of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba G.P.W. (49), R.C.H.J. (62), C.C. (45) and A.R.W.M. (43) were summoned to appear before Judge Coen Luijks on Monday.

Three of them are suspected of voting for UP in exchange for money, whereas G.P.W. is suspected of attempting to receive money for their vote, Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij said Monday.

UP party representative R.H. (60) is accused of giving money to the police officials in exchange for their votes.

At the start of Monday’s proceedings, attorney-at-law Janna Westra requested postponement of the hearing of her client R.J. for medical reasons. Her client is recovering from surgery, Westra said.

Filling in for attorney Eldon Sulvaran, lawyer Shaira Bommel also asked for a postponement because her Curaçao-based colleague did not have sufficient time to study R.H.’s case file.

Attorneys Cindy Marica and Cor Merx insisted on their client’s cases being heard Monday, with Merx announcing he would present two preliminary pleas.

G.P.W was not represented by an attorney. She said she did not require legal assistance.

Prosecutor Noordzij did not object to a postponement, but said the Prosecutor’s Office would like to handle all cases jointly.

After a brief recess, Judge Luijks said a preliminary hearing in this case would be held on April 14, during which the lawyers could submit requests for the hearing of witnesses and other additional investigations.

In the meantime, the Prosecutor’s Office has to add several documents to the case file. The Judge ordered the Prosecutor’s Office to further investigate UP’s involvement in this case, for instance by hearing more witnesses.

According to the Judge the case file contained contradictory statements where UP’s involvement in the alleged fraud was concerned.

The Prosecutor’s Office stated it could not be established that UP party had bribed or attempted to bribe persons. However, suspect R.H. had said he had acted on the orders of UP party leader Theo Heyliger.

The Judge said the Prosecutor’s Office had stated it could not be established that UP had committed punishable acts, whereas it had filed charges against party representative R.H. This constituted a serious contradiction, according to the Judge.

The Judge also wanted the Prosecutor’s Office to explain why it took almost three years and six months before this case was brought to Court.

The Chief of Police and Chief Prosecutor requested the Attorney General’s approval of an investigation on October 28, 2010. The request was granted in November 2010, “but only on August 6, 2012, the Chief Prosecutor asked the Attorney General’s permission for a criminal investigation. This time-frame raises questions,” said Judge Luijks.

The National Detectives (Landsrecherche) completed the investigation in this case on February 14, 2013, but the suspects were not summoned until one year later. This may have implications for the so-called reasonability of the time-frame permitted by law between the date of the alleged crime and the actual court hearing.

Attorney Merx firmly disagreed with Monday’s proceedings. He challenged the Judge, whom, he said, was “going too far.” Merx called the Court biased. “The Court is cutting the ground from under my feet. My client’s defence is built on exactly these deficiencies in the case file,” said Merx.

Attorney Marica supported Merx in challenging the judge. She stated she had also noted a number of faults which should lead to her client’s acquittal.

The Court of Appeals is to handle the recusal request. It is not yet known when this hearing is to take place.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

 

Ernstige kritiek op onderzoek stemfraude

17 februari 2014

PHILIPSBURG – Het gerecht heeft vernietigende kritiek geuit op het stemfraude-onderzoek waarvoor maandag vijf verdachten ter zitting verschenen. Rechter Koen Luijks besloot de zaak aan te houden tot 14 april.

Na die aankondiging trok de rechter van leer tegen het onderzoek dat volgens hem incompleet is, onverklaarbare tegenstrijdigheden bevat en veel te lang heeft geduurd.

Vier voormalige politieagenten worden ervan beschuldigd hun stem te hebben verkocht aan een vertegenwoordiger van Theo Heyliger’s Verenigde Volkspartij (UP) voor de verkiezingen in september 2010.

Het dossier beschuldigt Roy Heyliger, een oom van partijleider Theo Heyliger, ervan de andere verdachten geld te hebben gegeven voor hun stem. Tegelijkertijd concludeert de Landsrecherche uit een onderzoek naar de UP dat er geen bewijs is dat deze partij, noch enige andere partij, in 2010 stemfraude heeft gepleegd. Rechter Luijks beval het Openbaar Ministerie nader onderzoek te doen.

Redelijke termijn
De zaak kan niet-ontvankelijk verklaard worden omdat de tweejarige termijn voor het voor de rechter brengen is overschreden. Hoofdcommissaris Peter de Witte overhandigde het OM in oktober 2010 een dossier over de zaak. In november gaf advocaat-generaal Dick Piar toestemming voor het onderzoek.

In augustus 2012 vroeg de toenmalige hoofdofficier van Justitie Hans Mos nogmaals toestemming voor het onderzoek. Het dossier was gereed in februari vorig jaar, maar daarna heeft het nog een jaar geduurd voor het OM de zaak voor de rechter bracht. Cor Merx, de advocaat voor een van de agenten, diende ter zitting een verzoek in om de rechtbank te wraken.

Bron: NTR Caribisch Netwerk