Five-year demand for minor role in kidnapping

POSTED: 08/18/11 3:04 PM

St. Maarten – James Halston H., 33, probably regrets the day he accepted a free stay at an apartment belonging to supermarket-owner Roberto Francisco G. in September of last year. When G. announced in December that he was going to kidnap someone and that he was going to hold the hostage at the apartment he had made available to H., the latter did not dare to refuse – fearing repercussions from the aggressive G. and fearing that he would be thrown out of the apartment.
Prosecutor mr. B. den Hartigh demanded a 5-year prison sentence against H. for his role in the kidnapping of Nael Othman Awad, a 36-year-old Israeli who was born in Nablus on the occupied West Bank. Of the demand, 3 years are suspended. The prosecutor asked the court to impose 2 years of probation. Judge mr. M. Keppels will pronounce her verdict on September 7.

In March 2007, the Court in First Instance sentenced Awad to 48 months of imprisonment for his role in a drugs smuggling ring that used the cruise liner Mariner of the Seas to bring marijuana from Jamaica to St. Maarten, and cocaine from St. Maarten to the United States. Six others were sentenced at the time together with Awad.
In prison, Awad got acquainted with Isidro Eddison J., a 27-year-old St. Maartener who told the court in April that he had shared a cell with Awad for sixteen months. The cell mate is now one of the suspects in the kidnapping, together with Roberto Francisco G., 35, and Jeannot Sanon, a 22-year-old who was sentenced in March for a burglary at the Sun Color building.

James Halston H. told the court yesterday that he fears repercussions from the co-suspects or from their friends and that he intends to leave the island upon his release. Since his arrest on May 5, H. has been detained at his own request at the police station to avoid a confrontation with the other suspects in the Pointe Blanche prison.
H. is the only suspect in the kidnapping case who cooperated with investigators. He has claimed from the beginning that he never wanted to be part of the kidnapping. Prosecutor Den Hartigh however, noted that the defendant had not distanced himself from the crime, and that he had stayed around while other suspects tortured Awad. During the night from 16 to 17 December, H. stayed in his house where Awad was held, effectively guarding the hostage for the actual kidnappers.

On December 16, Awad was accosted at his home by the suspects. They threatened him with the words “don’t fucking move. Be calm,” duct-taped him and blindfolded him, rolled him in a blanket and stuffed him in a car before taking him to the apartment James H. occupied in Middle Region. There, Awad was duct-taped to a chair. The kidnappers burned his ears with cigarettes and put a hot iron on his leg.
H.’s attorney mr. M. Snijder said that his client had not taken G.’s announcement that he was going to kidnap someone seriously.
“He was intimidated by what happened,” he said.
mr. Snijder added that there had not been conscious and close cooperation between his client and the other suspects and that there is therefore insufficient proof to consider him as an accomplice.
mr. Snijder asked the court for a suspended sentence and to make the unconditional part of the sentence not longer than the 100 days because James H. has already spent too much time in pretrial detention. He also suggested imposing community service.

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