The ECOWAS Court sitting in Abuja has scheduled June 24 for ruling on Cape Verdean government’s application asking for the reversal of the earlier judgment ordering the release of a Venezuelan, Alex Saab.
Giving an update on the case, the court’s press unit said in a statement that the date was picked after the court heard the lawyers representing Cape Verde and Mr Saab on Tuesday.
Mr Saab, dual national of Venezuela and Columbia, is being detained in Cape Verde at United States of American government’s request. He was arrested on June 12, 2020 while having a flight stopover in Cape Verde.
The West African archipelago country’s government plans to extradite Mr Saab to the U.S. where he is being wanted over money laundering charges pending against him since 2019.
While the extradition proceedings were ongoing in Cape Verde, Mr Saab was pursuing a suit at the ECOWAS Court challenging his arrest and detention.
In its judgment delivered on March 15, 2021, the regional court declared Mr Saab’s arrest and detention as arbitrary and unlawful. This, the court held, was because, there was no “red alert” issued before the arrest was carried out.
It ordered the Cape Verdean government to release him and pay him $200,000 compensation.
The court also ordered Cape Verde to “discontinue all proceedings and processes aimed at extraditing the applicant to the USA”. As of that time, the country’s court had ordered Mr Saab’s extradition to the U.S. and the Venezuelan appealed against the extradition order at the Supreme Court.
Two days after the ECOWAS Court’s ruling, the Cape Verde’s Supreme Court, ruling on Mr Saab’s appeal, held that it was not bound by the regional court’s judgment. It therefore made an order authorising the government to go ahead with the planned extradition.
Mr Saab further appealed to the country’s constitutional court which has yet to deliver what will be the final ruling on the legality of the planned extradition. He is being held in house arrest in Cape Verde pending the final judgment of the constitutional court.
While awaiting the Cape Verdean courts’ final decision on the extradition, the Southern District Court of Florida, where Mr Saab has been charged with $350 million money laundering charges, has declared him a fugitive evading trial since July 2019.
However, the Cape Verdean authorities also applied to the ECOWAS Court asking the court to review and reverse its judgment ordering Mr Saab’s release.
Arguing his client’s case on Tuesday, Cape Verde’s lawyer, Henrique Borges, maintained that Mr Saab’s arrest was based on a red alert.
The court had ruled that there was no red alert issued as of the time Mr Saab was arrested.
But Mr Borges argued that it appeared so to the court because of difference in time zone between the U.S. which issued the red alert for his extradition and Cape Verde, which effected the arrest. He said with the time difference, the country was not in violation of the rights of the Venezuelan.
He also submitted that the court did not rule on its prior objection challenging the competence of the court to adjudicate on the matter.
On their part, Femi Falana and José Monteiro, lawyers representing Mr Saab, opposed Cape Verdean government’s application, arguing that that there were no new facts raised by the applicant.
They added that the government’s pleadings had been argued before the court prior to the judgment. They added that the application before the court was not a request for revision of judgment but an appeal to the court to sit as an appellate court over its own judgment.
The court, after hearing both parties, adjourned the matter till June 24 for its decision.
The judges on the panel that heard the case were Edward Amoako Asante, Dupe Atoki and Januaria Costa.
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