Two B.C. constables trapped in Cuba in critical need of justice
Const. Mark Simms and Const. Jordan Long, two B.C. police officers, face a situation of grave injustice in Cuba. Detained in mid-March after criminal accusations were made against them by a Canadian woman, they are still there. They have not been allowed to leave the country.
I went to Cuba to offer pastoral counselling. Fluent in Spanish, I was also able to translate documents and interpret between the officers and their lawyers. I have no legal credentials, but after seeing the prosecution’s case, I became deeply concerned that the allegations are not substantiated by evidence and are not credible.
I am also concerned the officers’ basic rights have been disregarded throughout the process. They were taken into police custody and denied the ability to contact Canadian consular officials or anyone else. Officials repeatedly told them they did not need to speak to defence lawyers.
Their statements were taken in English, simultaneously translated by a representative of a large tour agency and typed in Spanish by a police investigator. Their statements were then read back to them only once in English and, when they pointed out numerous errors and omissions, they were told that those inaccuracies were “not relevant.” They were forced to sign those Spanish statements they could not understand for admission into evidence.
The complainant, however, was allowed to handwrite a statement in English, which was translated into Spanish, and both language versions of her statement appear in evidence.
I understand that the complainant’s statement contravenes Cuban rules of procedure: it was not recorded, it was prompted by the investigator (by her own admission in the text), and defence lawyers were not present when it was given, a requirement when the complainant may not return to Cuba for a later trial.
It now appears the court is preparing to proceed with a trial without the complainant being required to appear and will only rely on the original statement. If so, the officers will not have the opportunity to face their accuser in court and she will not be subject to cross-examination.
The prosecution claims the complainant was forcibly taken by the arms across the hotel complex, a distance of some 500 meters, through a large hotel lobby, past a lobby bar, café, reception desk and gift shop, up three flights of stairs to their room, without raising alarm or attracting attention from other guests during high season at 4:30 in the afternoon.
In the absence of any physical signs of force or violence from a medical examination conducted that evening, the prosecution’s case is based on the notion that alcohol was a factor in the incident. Her blood alcohol level is cited as proof, but the prosecution fails to provide a date and time of the blood test in its submission to the court — simply the bare result.
Laboratory documents reveal, in fact, her blood sample for analysis was not even taken that same night, which makes it completely irrelevant to the case and inadmissible as evidence. During the delay, she was with her travel companions, unsupervised by officials. These are just examples of the many reasons why these officers took the unusual step of asking for an investigation under the Police Act here at home.
This situation involves three Canadian citizens. It is well known relations between Canada and Cuba have been strained by tensions recently and are now at a historic low-point. If Canadians have never given much thought to Cuba beyond it being a tropical destination for a holiday, I believe this critical situation constables Simms and Long are facing is a call to all Canadians to seriously consider our relationship with Cuba more seriously. The manner in which these two Canadian police officers are being treated is disgraceful. Their lives are in dangerous limbo as they continue to wait for Cuba to show basic justice... seven months now and counting, with no end in sight.
Blake Field is the Minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care at Wilson Heights United Church in Vancouver, B.C. Visit www.whuc.net for more information and to make a donation to support Simms and Long and their families.
RELATED NEWS: B.C. church collecting donations for constables who continue to be barred from leaving Cuba
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