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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07BRIDGETOWN572
2007-05-09 21:38:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

CONGRESSWOMAN'S VISIT TO "GRENADA 13" PRISONER

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  PGOV  ASEC  GJ  XL 
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DE RUEHWN #0572/01 1292138
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 092138Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4687
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1712
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHCV/USDAO CARACAS VE PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000572 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAR
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/07/2017
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV ASEC GJ XL
SUBJECT: CONGRESSWOMAN'S VISIT TO "GRENADA 13" PRISONER

REF: A. BRIDGETOWN 509

B. 06 GRENADA 66

C. 06 BRIDGETOWN 1258

Classified By: DCM Mary Ellen T. Gilroy for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: During CODEL Engel's recent visit to
Grenada, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) asked post to
arrange a meeting with Bernard Coard, the leader of the group
known as the "Grenada 17" who were convicted of the 1983
assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others.
PM Mitchell approved the request and Embassy Bridgetown FSN
Investigator and PolOff (both men) accompanied Rep. Waters
and her husband to Grenada's main prison. An animated Coard
discussed current events with the Congresswoman and supplied
her with the names of the remaining 13 prisoners and his
attorney. He claimed to harbor "no animosity" towards the
Government of Grenada (GOG). Rep. Waters promised Coard she
would talk to USG officials about the case. Later in the
day, following the CODEL's meeting with PM Mitchell in the
President's Box at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium, Rep.
Waters and her husband remained behind to speak with the PM.



2. (C) Since the February 2007 decision of the London Privy
Council that the "Grenada 13" had received a fair trial, the
group has lost its political prisoner status. By declaring
the death sentence invalid, and therefore the commutation to
life in prison invalid, the Privy Council returned the case
to the Grenada Supreme Court for resentencing. Even after 23
years, repercussions of the 1979-83 revolutionary period
resonate deeply in Grenadian politics. End Summary.

ARRANGING A PRISON VISIT FOR REP. WATERS


--------------------------





3. (C) During CODEL Engel's April 13-15 visit to Grenada (ref
A), Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California asked post to
arrange a meeting at Grenada's main prison with Bernard
Coard. Coard was the leader of the group later known as the
"Grenada 17" who were convicted of killing Prime Minister
Maurice Bishop and other officials in the internal coup in
October 1983 that resulted in the U.S.-CARICOM intervention.
Coard's brother is resident in Rep. Waters' congressional
district. Charge made the request directly to PM Keith
Mitchell by telephone on April 13. Mitchell approved the
request, as long as prison rules were followed, and directed
his Permanent Secretary to arrange the visit with the
Commissioner of Prisons. Coard, and others involved in the
factional uprising within the Bishop government which
resulted in the killings, have been in prison for over 20
years, serving life sentences.



4. (C) Because the meeting was to occur during regular prison
visiting hours on April 14, Charge arranged for an Embassy
Bridgetown security office FSN and PolOff (both men) to
accompany Rep. Waters. Usually, all prisoners and their

visitors are seated at one long table for their 15-minute
meetings and post wanted to ensure Rep. Water's safety. As
it turned out, the meeting took place in a small conference
room. PolOff Christopher R. Reynolds accompanied Rep. Waters
and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Sidney
Williams, into the room, but remained in the back throughout.

45 MINUTES WITH BERNARD COARD


--------------------------





5. (C) Bernard Coard, who is 62, appeared energetic and both
mentally and physically alert. He talked about a series of
eye operations he has undergone to correct cataracts. Coard
told Waters he was impressed with her work against South
African apartheid and mentioned that he had met Oakland Mayor
Ron Dellums. He added that he has experienced a "spiritual
awakening" in prison and has "no animosity" towards the
current government of Grenada. Coard was familiar with
political events in both Grenada and the United States,
including a recent teachers' strike in Grenada and the
Democrats' victory in the November 2006 U.S. elections. The
meeting lasted 45 minutes, much longer than the 15 minutes
post expected.



6. (C) In response to Rep. Waters' questions, Coard gave her
the names of the so-called "Grenada 13," reduced from 17 by
the release of three triggermen on December 2, 2006 (ref B)
and of Bernard Coard's Jamaican wife, Phyllis Coard,
"temporarily" released in 2000 to undergo chemotherapy in
Jamaica. (She remains in Jamaica where her husband intends
eventually to relocate.) Coard also provided the name of his
Grenadian attorney, Ruggles Ferguson of Ciboney Chambers, who
is also the head of the Grenadian Bar Association and a
rising young star. Rep. Waters promised to discuss the case
with USG officials. The meeting lasted 45 minutes, much
longer than the 15 minutes post expected.



7. (C) Later in the day, following the CODEL's meeting with
PM Mitchell in the President's Box at the Grenada National
Cricket Stadium, Rep. Waters and her husband remained behind
to speak with Mitchell. They joined the group about half an
hour later.

COMMENT: THE PAST IS EVER PRESENT


--------------------------





8. (C) The fate of the prisoners remains a political hot
potato in Grenada, a fact the Privy Council noted, stating
"the question of the appellants' fate is so politically
charged that it is hardly reasonable to expect any Government
of Grenada, even 23 years after the tragic events of October
1983, to take an objective view of the matter." PM Mitchell
told Charge that he did not want to deny Rep. Waters a
meeting with Coard so that "no one can point to me." He
further remarked that "he (Coard) is a convicted murderer,
but if she wants to talk to him, that's fine."



9. (C) Since the release in early February 2007 of the Privy
Council of London's decision that the "Grenada 13" had
received a fair trial, the group has lost its political
prisoner status. The Privy Council ruled the original death
sentence, which was commuted in 1991 to life in prison,
improper, sending the case back to the Grenada Supreme Court
for resentencing. The actual judgment was a relief for the
GOG as it did not call for a complete retrial, which could
potentially have torn the veneer of civility from the current
tentative discussion of about the revolutionary period and
its political impact on the present.



10. (C) For their part, Coard, his fellow inmates, and the
opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) were bitterly
disappointed in the ruling. They had fully expected the 13
to walk out of prison the day the ruling was released and to
be able to sue the government for large amounts of money for
wrongful imprisonment. Lawyers have requested a sentencing
date, but thus far the case is not on the court's calendar.
The GOG wisely has allowed the legal process to function.
The only official comment was that the GOG was satisfied with
the Privy Council ruling.
OURISMAN