Benschop charged with sedition, incitement to commit murder
May 17, 2001
Mark Benschop was yesterday placed on $500,000 surety after the police slapped four charges on him for offences he allegedly committed as host of the NBTV Channel Nine television programme "Straight Up".
The former host of "Straight Up" denied that he behaved disorderly at his home and at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) office but was not required to plead to charges of sedition and incitement to commit murder.
However, Chief Magistrate, Paul Fung-A-Fat, decided to dismiss the disorderly behaviour charge which stemmed from an incident at Benschop's home, after hearing submissions from the defendant's counsel, Nigel Hughes, that his client was entitled to decline a policeman's invitation and to "cuss him".
The facts surrounding that particular offence had stated that on May 14, the 90 Laluni Street resident used indecent language to officers after they visited his home and invited him to accompany them to the station.
Addressing the court on the allegations against Benschop, Hughes described the charges as ridiculous, before pointing out that there was no such charge as incitement to commit murder under Section 102 (B).
The police are claiming that on April 11 the television personality incited police officers to murder Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis by stating: "...I am calling on all police officers to turn your weapons on Laurie Lewis, give him a few, you know what I mean, pellets, bullets that is".
Hughes further described a statement made by Benschop which read: "The Guyana Police Force has to understand that they are outnumbered so if they kill one or two they cannot kill all. They are outnumbered and therefore they must be careful" as "good advice" in his opinion given the history of Germany and Adolf Hitler. This statement by Benschop was described by the police in the charge as seditious.
Hughes maintained that the words did not amount to sedition and were but a statement of fact unless Guyana had a nuclear bomb which could wipe out the whole population. In relation to the charge of disorderly behaviour at the CID headquarters, Hughes said one had to be on a suicide mission to behave disorderly in that place.
However, Police Prosecutor, Inspector Wreford Johnson, disagreed claiming that in the situation in which Benschop used the words there were far-reaching effects. He said sedition was a common law offence and was therefore a statement of offence. He further opposed bail based on the fact that the offence was a serious one.
In response, Hughes said that under common law, sedition was a misdemeanour. He asked that Benschop be allowed his pre-trial liberty since there was no risk of flight and he could not raise $500,000 in cash nor he did not have property.
The case was adjourned until today.
Another talk show host on NBTV Channel Nine, Ronald Waddell was charged with two counts of sedition on Tuesday.