(CMC) – The family of Gregory Hinds, the executive director of the Community Ambassadors Foundation (FEC) are claiming that he is being held in Venezuela since January 31 this year without any formal charges being laid against him.
The FES, which is known as the Embajadores Comunitarios Foundation in the Spanish-speaking country, is a non-profit non-government organisation (NGO) that implements youth empowerment programmes aimed at teenagers in a bid to improve their self-esteem, academic abilities, socio-emotional skills and to deter antisocial conducts.
Created in 2008, it started off in the various slums and has now reached some schools.
In a detailed statement released the relatives said that Hinds was arrested at the FEC headquarters in January by members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), “without a warrant issued by a Venezuelan court”.
They said he was taken to SEBIN’s office where he was told he would be interviewed and sign his testimony.
“He voluntarily accepted the invitation, without being told at the time that he was being detained,” the statement noted that the following day he was officially informed of his detention and was unable to communicate with his mother, Elsa Rodríguez, who is his only relative in Venezuela, nor with his attorneys.
Hinds said he had been placed in a very small cell known as “Tigrito”, without natural or artificial light.
“Also, the officials did not provide him with a source of potable water, so he had to drink water out of the toilet. He was not allowed to go out in the sun and had to sleep on the floor next to a person who was detained for kidnapping and theft.”
On February 2, Hinds was transferred to the Palace of Justice to be presented before a court of ordinary criminal jurisdiction. But, the matter was transferred to another court at the request of the Prosecutor of the Public Ministry.
The family statement noted that on February 5, more than 96 hours after his arbitrary detention, Hinds appeared in the court where the Prosecutor of the Public Ministry acknowledged that the detention was arbitrary.
But they said the judge ruled that even though arrests occurred without an arrest warrant, it was not illegal and also “accused Gregory of public instigation and conspiracy”
They said the judge also imposed significant penalties on Hinds “although the crimes charged are less serious than crimes commonly imputed to political prisoners “.
The family said that his lawyers presented the required guarantors documents for him to be released on bail, but he remains in prison and not able to communicate with his mother or attorney.
The family said that the matter had been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here and that the island’s ambassador to Venezuela, Sandra Phillips, visited Hinds on February 27, at the request of his mother.
“Gregory’s mother has met with Barbados’ Ambassador in Venezuela a couple of times, and she has been very receptive. However, despite the ambassador’s and the ministry’s efforts, Gregory’s case has not moved forward since he was apprehended on January 31,” the statement noted, adding that family members in Barbados, Orna and Edward Odwin, have constantly been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
The statement said that Hinds human rights have been violated by the Venezuelan authorities and that the FEC activities have been temporarily halted.
“Faced with arbitrary detention …the inability to communicate with his attorney, Gregory´s right to defense has been violated,” the statement said, noting that “given the conditions of detention of Gregory Hinds…it is considered he has been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment”.
Efforts to obtain a reaction from the Venezuelan authorities have so far proven futile.