The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, on Monday, said the absence of a Cape Verdean judge, Januária Costa, to hear the case of detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab, was not the reason why the hearing was postponed.
The court said there was a ‘mistake’ in communicating a shift in the date to the parties involved.
Mr Saab, an ally Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, has been in a Cape Verdean prison following his arrest in the island June 2020, causing legal and diplomatic row between the latter and the U.S.
The court, in reaction to a PREMIUM TIMES report, identified a January 22 hearing notice on the matter as a possible ‘mistake’ “which has been clarified with defence counsel lead, Femi Falana”.
“The facts of the matter is that; the Court had earmarked the case for hearing on the 4th of February, 2021, in its ‘Cause List’ published on the 21st of December 2020 and this can be verified on the website of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
“However, the List was reviewed as is a common practice and the date was brought forward to 2nd February 2021 in the revised ‘Cause List’ of 19th January 2021. This is consistent with the usual tradition of allocating convenient dates to hear matters before the Court,” the ECOWAS court spokesperson, Ogoh Sunday, explained.
While his explanation corresponds with the information on the court’s website, a hearing notice obtained by this reporter at the time the report was filed, confirmed that indeed the ECOWAS court sent a notice to Mr Saab’s defence counsel fixing the hearing for January 22 at 10:00 AM.
The notice was sent with zoom meeting identification and password on Wednesday, two days before the hearing which the court later claimed was canceled.
When PREMIUM TIMES presented this fact before the ECOWAS court’s spokesperson, he admitted this but argued that “Mr Falana was also notified about this development”.
“My understanding is that registry has called him earlier. Chief Falana is not a new person to the ECOWAS court and he understands how it works.
READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: Why Cape Verde disobeyed ECOWAS order – Falana
“If there was going to be a case and you log in to the case to join a virtual session, and you were not allowed in, then you will know that things have changed.
“I’m sure that people in the registry must have called him. And even if they didn’t, Mr Falana would have called to know what happened to his case. Those are possibilities, I’m not saying that was what happened,” Mr Sunday told this reporter, also suggesting there was a mistake in communication to the parties involved.
Efforts to reach Mr Falana were unsuccessful.
Mr Sunday also said Ms Costa, one of the three judges presiding over the case, “has not come back from holiday and could have participated virtually from anywhere”.
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