By Latoya Giles
A serving Major in the Guyana Defence Force, Bruce Munroe, his wife Carol-Ann Munroe, a mother of three and the proprietrix of a private school, and former army reserve officer Leonard Wharton, have all been charged with plotting to depose the President and Government of Guyana.
They were arrested last Thursday following a year-long investigation, according to the police.
The trio who were all heavily shackled made their way to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge of treason before Magistrate Priya Beharry.
The charge against them read that between December 1, 2009 and December 16, 2010, at the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, they intended to levy war within Guyana to force the President out of his office in order to compel the government of Guyana to change its measure, further to depose the President.
The trio was not required to plead since the charge was indictable.
The accused were represented by attorneys-at-law Gregory Gaskin, Nigel Hughes, George Thomas and Trenton Lake.
Assistant Superintendent of Police, Fazil Karimbaksh, who prosecuted the matter, said that the police were conducting investigations for some period. He said investigations revealed that the three were trying to recruit and give instructions to a gang to cause mayhem in Guyana. Further investigations led to their arrest last week.
Attorney-at-law Gregory Gaskin, told the court that based on the facts presented to the defence the charge amounts to nothing more than a case of arson.
The defence lawyer petitioned the court for an early date for the commencement of the preliminary inquiry.
At this point, prosecutor Karimbaksh told the court that the earliest date requested by the prosecution would be two months, a request that produced a gasp from the Acting Chief Magistrate.
Nigel Hughes, another defence lawyer, pointed out that for a matter of this nature, the prosecution should have been readily able to proceed.
“Since the investigation was going on for over a year, the police should have been able to commence. If as they say they have recordings, transcripts should have been completed,” Hughes argued.
He said that for the police seek to delay any trial would be to invite allegations of wrongful arrest. In addition, the police action could lead to unnecessary public pressure on the court.
Magistrate Beharry fixed January 7, next, for the next court appearance. She also said that on that date, the court would fix a date for the commencement of the preliminary inquiry.
Hughes also petitioned for his client to be treated in a manner removed from ordinary detainees. According to the lawyer, his client, Carol-Ann Munroe, is schizophrenic — a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking and of emotional responsiveness.
He argued that if the woman is sent to prison, it could trigger an episode that could have serious consequences. He invited the prosecution to conduct an independent analysis. He also offered to make all the relevant medical records available.
The lawyer had earlier noted that there was a lot of speculation prior to the charges being laid. Some speculated that the charges were linked to the fire that destroyed the Ministry of Health building on Brickdam. He noted that the dates of the charge could not stand up to such speculation, since the Ministry of Health fire happened several months before.
Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Gaskin said that the entire situation was unfortunate. He said that his clients were charged with treason and certain aspects of the charge have not been put to them.
He said that the allegations put against his clients do not amount to an attempt to dislodge the state, or cause injury to the national institutions or to the President.
He further told members of the media that he is hopeful that the matter comes out very quickly, and that his clients are not used as pawns in a political game.
Gaskin opined that the only charge in his mind that could have been presented, if they are to be found culpable, could have been slightly more than arson, and they still don’t think there is evidence to support that.
He opined that the prosecutor has an uphill task to prove his case, and they (clients) are very hopeful and confident that what they know the police have against them does not amount to a conviction.
The Munroes, along with Wharton, as indicated, were arrested last week.
A few police officials had suggested that the charges are somehow connected to the Ministry of Health fire, however, the prosecution yesterday failed to mention anything remotely related to that incident.
Wharton’s wife, Fay, was also held but was released late Monday afternoon.
Relatives of Munroe had denied that the army official, well-known in his community, along with his wife, could have been linked to the fire which Government officials have said was carried out by a gang headed by an overseas “boss”.
Major Munroe’s sister, Gabriella, said that her brother and his wife were detained last week Thursday after police raided their Soesdyke home.
“I received a call about 09:30 (21:30hrs) Thursday night that police by the house. I went down.”
However, police prevented the woman from entering for about an hour after her arrival.
“Then this official explained that they are searching the house but refused to say anything else.”
There were heavily armed policemen at the Soesdyke home.
“Finally, around 11, they tell me that I could come in. The entire house was tumbled up.”
Police allowed the woman to gather clothes for the Munroe children before they whisked the army man and his wife to the Eve Leary headquarters.
According to Ivan Hutson, the brother of Carol-Ann Munroe, he too received a call Thursday night and raced to Soesdyke from his city home.
“This is my only sister and she would never be involved in anything illegal. I will swear on that. She is the head of a school.”
Kaieteur News was told that police picked up Munroe and Wharton based on an informant’s tape that was made of conversations. However, Munroe’s relatives questioned this and claimed that the alleged informant once worked with Wharton and was dismissed.
Munroe and Wharton were said to be friends with the informant who once rented a property from the businessman.
Treason is a capital offence that is not bailable. The last persons to be slapped with treason charges were Mark Benschop and Philip Bynoe.
Benschop has since been released from prison where he spent five years while Bynoe was never brought to court although charged.
The charging of the trio with treason now totals up to five persons who have been charged and prosecuted by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-led administration since 1992.
Carol-Ann Munroe is also the first woman, of the lot, to have been charged with treason.
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