Public Services’ Association (PSA) President Watson Duke has been released on $250,000 bail after appearing in court to answer a sedition charge.
Duke, who is also the Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly, was taken to the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court shortly after he was discharged from the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, this morning.
During his brief court appearance before Magistrate Adia Mohammed, Duke, who dressed in blue suit, was not called upon to plead to the indictable charge.
Police prosecutors initially objected to bail for Duke as they pointed out that he had pending charges for rape, indecent assault, and disorderly conduct. They also expressed fears over whether the controversial trade union was made another allegedly seditious statement if he is released.
The objection was eventually overruled by Mohammed, who granted him bail. She then adjourned the case to December 13.
Duke’s hospital visit after he was charged on Thursday night, was his third since first being detained by police, on Monday.
Shortly after Special Branch police executed search warrants at the PSA’s headquarters at Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain and at his home, Duke complained of feeling unwell and was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope.
He was eventually discharged on Wednesday evening but was taken back to the hospital after complaining of feeling unwell, yesterday morning.
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, last year.
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 is being represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, and John Heath.
The Sedition Act
Under the Sedition Act, a person is guilty of an offence if they attempt to do an act with a seditious intent, communicates a statement with a seditious intent or distribute material containing seditious intent.
A person convicted of an offence faces a $3,000 fine and up to two years in prison on summary conviction and a $20,000 fine and up to five years in prison if they are convicted before a judge and jury in the High Court.
The legislation defines seditious intent as an intention to bring contempt and hatred to the Government; to raise disaffection amongst inhabitants of T&T; to engender or promote feelings of hostility against any class of citizens of T&T distinguished by race, colour, religion or profession; or to promote violence against a particular group.
Statements are not considered seditious if they intend to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in its measures or point out errors and defects in an effort to promote their lawful reformation.
“In determining whether the intention with which any act was done, any words were spoken or communicated, or any document was published, was or was not seditious, every person shall be deemed to intend the consequences which would naturally follow from his conduct at the time and under the circumstances in which he so conducted himself,” the legislation states.