Benschop goes on hunger strike
April 20, 2007
Treason accused Mark Benschop yesterday began protesting his lengthy detention in prison and the State's apparent unwillingness to try him by declining any offer of food.
He was visited by his wife, Maria, Opposition Leader and attorney-at-law, Robert Corbin, and attorney-at-law Llewellyn John.
According to Mr. John, Benschop is complaining that not only is his trial being delayed, but the matter does not allow for him to be at liberty.
John said they are concerned that though Benschop should be given a priority hearing, the State has shown no interest in prosecuting him.
Benschop, who is charged with the capital offence of treason, is awaiting his retrial at the High Court following a hung jury at the first trial. He has been imprisoned since that hung jury in 2004.
Benschop's name has appeared at number 13 of 31 persons on the final list of Justice William Ramlal.
His lawyers revealed that of the 31 persons listed for trial, only five are in custody awaiting trial.
However, there are fears that the persons who are out on bail may be given priority hearings.
Yesterday, John noted that the judge actually heard the matter listed at number 31 on the list, suggesting that he was hearing cases from the bottom.
However, when contacted, Justice Ramlal said that he was merely dealing with cases presented to him by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The DPP could not be reached for comment, but such efforts will continue.
John told Kaieteur News that Benschop's hunger strike is likely to continue until next Monday.
At the January sessions, Benschop's name was listed at number 13 on the list of Justice Claudette La Bennett.
His name had earlier (last year) appeared at number 16 on the list of Justice Jainarayan Singh.
Benschop is accused of attempting to overthrow the Government after a protest outside the Office of the President in 2001.
The April Session of the Supreme Court, in its criminal jurisdiction, will sit until the end of June.
And Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin, stated yesterday that the People's National Congress Reform will make every effort to have the matter against the treason accused expeditiously tried.
He added that Benschop should not have been subjected to another trial.
After yesterday's visit with Benschop at the Camp Street jail, Corbin said that Benschop's hunger strike was a passive protest at the delay in his court hearing.
Corbin said that Benschop feels his matter will once again be overlooked. He added that there has been no real effort by the judiciary to have the matter heard.
Corbin stated, I will be very proactive in ensuring that Benschop's wishes are fulfilled.
He revealed that there will be several lawyers and senior counsel who will be working around the clock to have the treason charge against Benschop dismissed.
An exasperated Maria Benschop opined, It is about time that he is released.
She added that there is major emotional instability in the home because of the absence of her husband.