Apr 14, 2021 News
By Renay Sambach
Kaieteur News – Four decades after Donald Rodney was found guilty and sentenced for the unlawful possession of explosives, the appeal of his 18-month conviction was yesterday set aside in an historic decision.
This was the first time in history a Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who represented the state in the matter, agreed with the defence in the Guyana Court of Appeal (COA).
Weeks after the DPP agreed with the defence that there was not sufficient evidence against Rodney to support his February 26, 1982 conviction in the Magistrate’s Court, the ruling was yesterday handed down by, Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Justice Dawn Gregory and Justice Rishi Persaud in the COA.
The DPP had also accepted that Rodney’s right to a fair trial within a reasonable time as outlined under Article 144 of the Constitution of Guyana was infringed upon due to the delay in hearing the appeal.
Since his conviction, an appeal was filed in the COA. However, Rodney’s appeal was not heard until years after it was filed, and forty-years later the matter finally came to an end yesterday.
During a phone call interview with this publication, Rodney’s lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, stated that the darkest days and a changing chapter to Guyana’s Judicial System came to an end yesterday. The lawyer highlighted that his client had to wait decades to clear his name after he was convicted and sentenced by a totalitarian regime, without any evidence or a fair trial.
“With not even a kangaroo trial and evidence that pointed to Donald and Walter’s innocence all ignored by the trial Magistrate, Donald was convicted and sentenced for the unlawful possession of explosives. This is what happens when a state controls the judicial system of a country,” the lawyer added.
Datadin highlighted the determination of his client to not only prove his innocence but to also prove the legacy of his brother. “Donald’s conviction and sentence, if not the worse, is among the worse convictions of Guyana’s judiciary. I am glad that the Court of Appeal righted this wrong,” the lawyer stated.
According to Datadin, the Rodney brothers were accused of carrying around explosives to blow up the Camp Street Prison, when in fact they had home-made walkie-talkies that they were testing in the vicinity of the prison.
The lawyer stated that the walkie-talkies had explosives placed in them, unknown to the Rodney brothers. Datadin shared that he cannot imagine what his client endured over the decades trying to prove his innocence. He also stated that yesterday was the first time he saw his client smile.
Rodney was charged on June 24, 1980, for the unlawful possession of explosives. This charge stemmed from the June 13, 1980 assassination of Rodney’s brother, historian and politician, Dr. Walter Rodney, the founder of The Working People’s Alliance (WPA).
Dr. Walter Rodney died after a bomb exploded in his car. Under the previous Donald Ramotar, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, a Commission of Inquiry (COI) was conducted into the assassination of Walter Rodney and it was concluded that his death was a state killing. Then President Forbes Burnham was implicated in the assassination.
Under the Ramotar administration, Rodney was offered a pardoned in 2014 but he had refused to accept it since he was determined to prove his innocence.
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