The sedition charge against Public Services’ Association (PSA) President, Watson Duke, has been dismissed.
Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle opted to discharge Duke as he reappeared before her in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court, a short while ago.
State prosecutors had requested that Busby-Earle-Caddle adjourn the case, after a preliminary hearing of the State’s appeal over Justice Frank Seepersad’s judgement, in which he struck down aspects of the Sedition Act. The hearing is carded for February 3.
Busby-Earle-Caddle rejected the application as she ruled that Duke was facing a charge that is currently not a law.
In the event that the Office of the Attorney General eventually manages to convince the Appellate Courts to overturn Seepersad’s judgement, the charge against Duke may be reinstated.
The sedition charge against Duke relates to statements on proposed layoffs at TSTT, T&TEC, and WASA, which he made in a press conference on November 16, 2018.
Duke reportedly said: “We must be prepared to die, folks. You know why? This is your belief, this is your family, and I am sending the message clear… let Rowley them know that the day they come for us in WASA, we are prepared to die and the morgue would be picking up people.”
Duke, who also has pending charges for rape, indecent assault, and disorderly conduct, was placed on $250,000 bail after being charged in August, last year.
The sedition case before Justice Seepersad was brought by former secretary-general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Satnarayan Maharaj, before his death in November, last year.
In his judgement, Seepersad ruled that the law could not be protected from judicial review under the constitutional savings clause as it is vague, uncertain and can lead to arbitrary application.
He also ruled that the legislation is not compatible with a sovereign democratic state as it limits constitutional rights to freedom of thought and expression and freedom of the press.
Story by DEREK ACHONG