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Will 51 men be released from the prison?

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It started as a dragnet of over a hundred gang-related persons but the effectiveness of the State of Emergency should be tested on Wednesday when the 30 days dry up on the detention of 51 men who are currently awaiting freedom at the Belize Central Prison tonight.  The measure was addressed as far back as March by the Prime Minister but did not come into effect until a bloodbath in Belize City during which 6 persons were killed over a short period of time. The declaration proclaimed by the Governor General on September 4, 2018 was also exacerbated by the country’s persistent ranking as one of the top five countries in the world with the highest murder rate per capita, a depressing reflection on a country of close to 350,000 residents that also prides itself as “the jewel.”  Reporter, Jose Sanchez took a trip to the Belize Central Prison earlier today and spoke with the Chief Executive Officer, Virgilio Murillo.

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “With that proclamation the prison received a total of 51 such persons to be housed at the facility. Since then I can tell you that everything has been the usual with respect to the stability of the prison; there has not been any ruckus so to speak, no confrontation amongst them any at all.”

Reporter: Where did you house them ?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “I cannot tell you specifically but suffice me to say that we did house them in a very smart way that they would not pose any threat to one another, so absolutely nobody has been harmed, there has been no rivalry within the prison so they were definitely properly classified and they were definitely properly placed. What I will tell you is that today these guys are playing ball together on the court everyday.”

Reporter: Have you received any order regarding an extension of the detention?  

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “As of this point no.”

Reporter: Have you received any communication from the police or the Ministry of National Security about what to do at the end of the order ?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “As of this point absolutely not.”

Reporter: So then when would they be released ?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “That is a good question, as far as I am concerned I’m going to stick with what the order says ”This order is in effect until revoked or varied by the Minister.” So that doesn’t have an end to it any at all so I can only confine myself to what this order says.”

Reporter: Does the order say thirty days from declaration or thirty days from the first date of detention?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “No it doesn’t say, it just says that until the end of the period of public emergency and in my calculation the proclamation was made on the 4h of September so my calculation tells me that tomorrow makes it a month.”

Reporter: So in effect then you would release them tomorrow morning ?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “Well I would not be able to release them without getting a further order so.”

Reporter: So assuming you don’t get an order and the proclamation would come to an end by definition tomorrow then what would you do without an order.

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “Well I certainly can’t do anything because we have to go back to rule #5, “this order is in effect until revoked or varied by the Minister.” that has absolutely no definitive time to it.”

As you’ve heard, CEO Murillo referred us to point number five (EMERGENCY VO) in a letter signed by Minister of National Security, John Saldivar.  That point noted, quote, “This order is in effect until revoked or varied by the Minister”. End of quote.

Reporter: Were they able to speak for example to families or to attorneys about their legal rights? I know the declaration is very stringent, what were those rules and how did you deal with them, those who would have wanted to speak to an attorney or family for example ?

Virgillo Murillo, CEO Kolbe Foundation: “Well with respect to attorney visits, they were not allowed to speak with any attorneys if they were on this particular detention order. Certainly the laws, the constitution or the segment of the constitution that was used to put them here is crystal clear. It speaks to the fact that no earlier than thirty days after, not later than a month after they have been under this state of emergency shall their case be reviewed. So with respect to attorneys they were not allowed to speak to any of them. They definitely enjoyed the privilege of having visits by their families, they definitely enjoyed the privilege of making their phone calls and having recreation and like I said they played ball together, they played sports together every day since last week.”

Murillo says that all has been relatively quiet among the detainees.  On tomorrow’s newscast, we will update you on the progress of this fluid situation.

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