Ministry underlines support for Ffriend
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has moved to clarify its position as it relates to the assistance that the Jamaican Government has been offering national basketball player Kimani Ffriend, who has been arrested in Serbia on manslaughter charges.
Ffriend was the driver in a car accident in which a young Serbian woman was killed.
In a detailed letter to The Gleaner, the ministry notes that it "has been actively involved in Mr Ffriend's case from the outset, that is, the 5th November 2012, two days after the accident occurred, almost two years ago.
"Mr Ffriend's assertion that he had received a 'cold shoulder' from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is totally erroneous and quite unfortunate. The ministry, through its high commissions, embassies and consulates, is duty-bound to promote and protect the interest and welfare of all Jamaican nationals overseas, regardless of the individual's social status and circumstances."
The embassy in Berlin has portfolio responsibility for the Republic of Serbia and the honorary consul in Belgrade reports to that embassy, which in turn
reports to its headquarters, the ministry, in Kingston.
The letter further stated that "it was the ministry, at the outset, which issued the instructions to the embassy and the consulate to investigate, monitor and report on Mr Ffriend's case. The ministry, through the embassy and the consulate, has been providing all possible assistance to Mr Ffriend since the accident, which includes:
Procuring legal representation;
Representations to the Serbian authorities to ensure all possible statutory exemptions for which he was eligible, while in prison.
With the approval of the judge, frequent visits by the honorary consul (no less than 25 times) and translation of letters and emails from relatives in Jamaica for ease of communication;
Provision of specially arranged meals in prison;
Financial assistance by the honorary consul to procure legal representation and to rent an apartment when he was moved to house arrest, which was subsequently reimbursed by Mr Ffriend;
Acting as the liaison between Mr Ffriend and his relatives;
Logistical arrangements facilitated by the honorary consul for the visits of a family friend from Jamaica;
Attendance by the honorary consul at most of the trial hearings;
In April 2014, the honorary consul visited Jamaica to attend the Trade Expo and met with Mr Ffriend's mother to update her on his situation.
visit by the consular officer from the embassy in Berlin and ongoing communication with Mr Ffriend."
The letter went on: "In July 2014, when the case was suspended at the request of Mr Ffriend's legal adviser, Mr Ffriend appealed to the embassy to write to the Serbian authorities to ensure that he be granted a fair trial. It was reiterated that Jamaica could not interfere in the judicial process of another state, but that the embassy would conduct internal consultations to determine the way forward and inform him accordingly.
"On the 8th August 2014, the ministry wrote to the Serbian foreign ministry requesting that Mr Ffriend be granted all necessary rights, including the right to due process, a fair trial and the right to an appeal. Mr Ffriend was advised on the same day by the embassy that his legal adviser would be provided with a copy via the honorary consul.
"The ministry hopes that the foregoing clarifies its role in this case. The honorary consul, as the representative of the ministry in Belgrade, has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support Mr Ffriend. The ministry wishes to assure the public that it takes its role of safeguarding the interests of all its nationals seriously."