– more witnesses walk out of holding facility
The Guyana Police Force is desperately trying to repair its tattered witness protection programme following allegations by witnesses that they are being held like prisoners.
This followed the escape of two more witnesses from the programme yesterday.
The witnesses are expected to testify in the sexual molestation trial of popular television station owner Chandra Narine Sharma after being held in what the authorities described as protective custody to prevent them from being tampered with.
On Monday, a 19-year-old, Teresa, forced her way out of the holding facility citing hostage-like conditions, although the authorities have insisted that they are free to leave if they choose to. Yesterday, two more females left the facility but were taken back into custody later in the evening.
Kaieteur News understands that they were promised improved conditions and freedom to leave if they so desired.
Initially the police were distancing themselves from the ‘detention’ of the witnesses, claiming that the programme was the initiative of the Ministry of Human Services and the Force is just acting as protectors for the witness following reports that they were being tampered with.
But an official from the Ministry of Human Services denied that the witnesses were the responsibility of the Ministry.
“We have to go through the police, even if we want to see them. We have to get the permission of the police. We didn’t even know where they were,” the official told this newspaper.
According to the official, the witnesses were initially housed at the Sophia Drop-in Centre where the alleged victim of the sexual assault is being held. However they refused to stay there and eventually left Sophia.
They were picked up by the police and taken to the present location where they were kept under guard on a 24-hour basis.
“The victim and her younger cousin are staying at Sophia and we are counseling them. When the others left, the Ministry had nothing to do with it,” the official told Kaieteur News.
The official stated that witness protection is absolutely voluntary adding that, “in no country will witness protection be dealt with by the Social Services authorities.”
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