[Ppnews] Justice and Freedom for the Granada 17

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 28 08:48:55 EDT 2007


To:  Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Grenada; The Commonwealth 
Leaders; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; OAS Human Rights 


We, the undersigned, come together before you, seeking truth, justice 
and freedom for the Grenada 17, who have been unjustly incarcerated 
at Richmond Hill Prison, Grenada, for almost 22 years.

As the surviving former political and military leaders of the 
Grenadian revolution, the Grenada 17 were arrested in October 1983 
when the United States, in clear violation of international law, 
invaded the beautiful island of Grenada. Within a week, 79 world 
governments expressed their disapproval of this action, and the 
United Nation's General Assembly voted 108 to 9 to condemn the 
American intervention.

The statements given by the Grenada 17 to police investigators in 
November 1983, and later recorded in the form of affidavits, bear 
witness to the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment these political 
prisoners were subjected to upon their arrest. They also reveal that 
the confessions of guilt, which were used as evidence in the trial of 
the 17, were extracted from them under torture. Apart from these 
coerced confessions, the convictions of the Grenada 17 were based 
solely on the perjured evidence of a single witness, who was later 
described by an eminent Caribbean Appeals Court Judge as 'having a 
grudge against the accused, and therefore a motive to lie'.

The numerous deceits and irregularities of the trial of the Grenada 
17, and of the subsequent legal motions through which their appeals 
for justice were turned down, are described in the 2003 Amnesty 
International report entitled 'The Grenada 17: Last of the Cold War 
The Amnesty document considers the process against the 17 to have 
been 'fatally flawed' and 'manifestly unjust', and calls for an 
independent judicial review of their convictions. So far the 
Grenadian authorities have not acted upon Amnesty's recommendations. 
The Grenada 17 have always maintained their innocence and have stated 
that if they had been allowed a free and fair trial they would have 
cleared their names and be free today.

The mental, physical and emotional abuse and stress that the 17 have 
endured during the 22 years of their imprisonment have taken a heavy 
toll. Phyllis Coard, former Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs, was 
diagnosed with cancer in 2000 after 16 years of incarceration, which 
included nearly 7 years in isolation. She was granted only temporary 
release for treatment. In 2004, John Ventour, former General 
Secretary of the Grenada Trade Union Council, was also diagnosed with 
cancer. He remains incarcerated. Others of the Grenada 17 suffer from 
severe prostatitis, arthritis, diabetes, and other medical 
conditions. Former Deputy PM Bernard Coard is losing his sight.

During its time in power, the People's Revolutionary Government, of 
which many of the 17 were members, was responsible for substantial 
social and economic reforms. These gifted and capable people, now 
languishing in prison, brought free medical care and free education 
to Grenada. They set up a health center in every parish and effected 
the doubling of the number of doctors on the island. They helped 
raise literacy by teacher education and an each-one-teach-one program 
throughout the countryside. They inaugurated a healthy, independent 
agro-industry relying on domestic resources, which surpassed all 
other Caribbean economies in the rate of its growth and stability. 
They reduced the rate of unemployment from 40 to 14 percent. 
Furthermore, during their time of incarceration, the Grenada 17 have 
exhibited exemplary behavior, earning academic degrees in a variety 
of fields and running an educational program for other inmates, which 
has contributed substantially to those inmates' prospects for rehabilitation.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged clemency for the Grenada 17, 
stating that the time had come for healing and reconciliation. We 
join him, as well as Amnesty International and those honourable 
judges who have demonstrated their integrity and independence through 
rulings favourable to the 17, in calling upon Prime Minister Mitchell 
and the Grenada government to do what's best for all concerned: Set 
the 17 free, and let Grenada move forward into a future no longer 
afflicted by the pain and mistakes of the past.


To Sign Petition:


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San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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