The doctors of Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat detained in Cape Verde, were able to examine him on Wednesday but were prevented from boarding a plane after they refused to hand over his blood samples to authorities, his lawyer said in a statement.
The examination came after the Barlavento Court of Appeal on Wednesday gave authorization for “the doctors of Alex Saab’s choice to examine him.”
“At 14:00 Mr Saab’s doctors were authorized to enter the house in which he is detained. Despite the court order the local police would not let the examination proceed unless they were also present along with a government doctors and the military,” said Dr. Pinto Monteiro, lead Cabo Verde counsel of Alex Saab.
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Monteiro said in violation of all local and international norms and decency, Mr. Saab was forced to undergo his examination in full view of these third parties.
“Once examination finished and the doctors were leaving the house, the local police under instructions of Commander Evora forced the doctors to hand over one of the vials of blood without any authorization or justification. Subsequently the doctors were refused permission to board the aircraft as Sal airport authorities informed them that they had received a call from “an official” who advised that the doctors were carrying “dangerous goods”, which they were informed were bottles of blood,” he said.
He added: “We are informed that the call was made from the office of Commader Evora. This is clearly an attempt to intimidate medical professionals who have flown several thousands of kilometers to undertake a Cape Verdean court approved medical examination which was also authorized by the United Nations. We are reaching to the authorities in Praia and hope that sanity will prevail.
Last week, a lead counsel to Saab sent an open letter to Juan Gonzalez, President Joe Biden’s special assistant and senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council, calling for an urgent intervention from the White House.
Mr. Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Ambassador Saab’s lead ECOWAS counsel, who issued the letter on behalf of his client, noted that he had previously written President Biden himself on the same matter without receiving any response. It is not clear the American leader ever saw that correspondence.
“I have read with great interest our attributed comments on how you wish for the matter of Alex Saab and his extradition to the United States from the Republic of Cape Verde be dealt with without political interference. As ambassador Saab’s lead ECOWAS counsel, I congratulate you on your wise words. However, we both know that the only political pressure that is being applied in this case is by the United States on Cape Verde,” the lead counsel wrote. “You have expressed a desire for the rule of law to prevail in relation to Ambassador Saab’s extradition and illegal detention, yet the United States has mounted pressure on Cape Verde to ignore binding decisions from the ECOWAS Court of Justice declaring Ambassador Saab’s detention to be illegal, and the extradition process be terminated.”
Falana added that the United States “has also pressurized Cape Verde to ignore rulings from the United Nations Human Rights Committee that the extradition process being carried out against Ambassador Saab be halted.”
“It is undoubtedly clear that it is the United States that has pushed Cape Verde to ignore Ambassador Saab’s immunity and inviolability and it is the United States which has pushed Cape Verde to ignore the findings of the respected Geneva public prosecutor, who after a three-year investigation has declared that there is no basis for supporting allegations of money laundering against Ambassador Saab,” he said.
Falana called on the American leader to do the right thing, uphold the rule of law and let Saab go.
Authorities arrested Alex Saab in Cape Verde on June 12 2020, on the basis that he had reportedly been implicated in several corruption schemes involving the Maduro regime.
The Colombian businessman, who worked as a Venezuelan diplomat, was indicted by U.S. prosecutors in 2019. They accused him of allegedly helping Nicolás Maduro and other high-level Venezuelan officials launder hundreds of millions of dollars in corruption proceeds. He has denied all charges against him.
On June 8, 2021, the United Nations called on Cape Verde to “refrain from extraditing Mr. Alex Saab to the United States of America.”
Cape Verde responded by saying, “the UN Human Rights Committee does not have the competence to impose the suspension of the extradition of Alex Saab from Cape Verde to the United States of America.”
The ECOWAS court has also ruled his detention as illegal, now his lawyers are calling on President Biden to abide by the rule of law he vowed to respect.