Attorneys for social activist Mark Benschop have filled a lawsuit against the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Guyana Chronicle, seeking damages in excess of $10M for libel contained in an article carried in the newspaper’s September 4, 2010 edition.
The article, under the caption, ‘Questions surround Benschop’s involvement in surrender of wanted man Cobra’, conveyed the impression that Benschop was in constant contact with ‘Cobra’ whose real name is Tyrone Rowe, prior to his surrender.
The article also suggested that Benschop might have aided the wanted man in some way to elude capture by the police.
In early September, Benschop was contacted via cellular phone by someone who claimed to be the wanted man. The person indicated that he wanted to meet with Benschop and a subsequent arrangement was worked out for an unconditional surrender.
Benschop then contacted members of the media who converged at an agreed meeting point – at the junction of Louisa Row and Durban Street.
When Rowe finally appeared he indicated to the media team that he was being hunted by the police and accused of crimes he denied committing. After agreeing to the proposed surrender, Rowe was subsequently handed over to the police who were earlier contacted by a member of the media team.
Rowe has since been charged with committing robbery under arms, and murder, resulting from a robbery at Plaisance.
In addition to the $10M, Benschop through his attorney Nigel Hughes, is seeking in excess of $100,000 as well as an injunction restraining the Guyana Chronicle, or their servants and or agents from publishing and or attempting to publish further articles on the issues referred to in their September 4 article.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether the Guyana Police Force will honour its obligation to pay the $1M reward that was offered for the capture of ‘Cobra’.
Police Commissioner Henry Greene in a previous interview with this newspaper had indicated that he is awaiting a report to determine whether or not anyone will receive the $1M.
Queries about the reward offered for his capture have been met with some amount of reluctance on the part of the police.
A senior police officer indicated that there may be some apprehension on the part of the police administration to pay the reward because of the involvement of Benschop.
However it was pointed out that while Benschop was the first to be contacted, it was the other media operative who advised the wanted man to surrender. This was contained in a statement given to the police by the media operative.
The police appear to be basing their position on the fact that Rowe surrendered, negating the payment of any reward.
This position was supported by Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, when a query was made.
In the past, police have published rewards for wanted men and except for the much publicized payout for the killing of the notorious Rondell ‘Fine man’ Rawlins, it is hardly known if these were honoured.
A case in point was the killing of another notorious criminal Neil Bovell, who was shot dead by a party of policemen.
The ranks who were on the operation had complained of not receiving the $2M reward although they were promised that they would have.
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