Pardon, please - Governments steps up plea for Jamaican in Qatar prison
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Despite several telephone calls and three formal requests from the Jamaican Government to the government of Qatar, there is still no indication as to whether Paul Stephens, a Jamaican airline pilot who has been imprisoned in Qatar for the past three years, will be granted pardon.
The latest request for pardon was submitted last Sunday, November 23, this according to a report tabled in the Senate on Friday by A.J. Nicholson, the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.
The report says the Government is hoping to secure the release of the Jamaican, who it did not name, on the basis of "time served and any time off for good behaviour".
"The Government of Jamaica is hopeful that its request for pardon will be favourably considered to allow the early release of the Jamaican national. It should be borne in mind that the grant of a pardon is entirely at the discretion of the authorities in Qatar," the report said.
Opposition Senator Robert Montague, while breaching the Standing Orders by speaking while the Senate President Floyd Morris was speaking, sought permission to question Nicholson on the report.
"I am throwing myself and the gentleman in Qatar at your mercy, my Lord," Montague said, despite the ruling of Morris that he will have to table the questions, in keeping with the rules of the Senate.
"Qatar's National Day being December 18, time indeed is of the essence," Montague said, while noting that pardons are normally granted on December 18.
Meanwhile, the report to the Senate states that the Jamaican Government first requested pardon for Stephens on April 24. Then, a diplomatic note was transmitted through the Embassy of Jamaica in Kuwait to the government of the State of Qatar. The note was copied to the minister of justice and attorney general of Qatar.
The embassy, on June 9, sent a second request, on behalf of Stephens' mother, for a grant of pardon. The request was copied to the minister of justice and attorney general of Qatar. Thereafter, the report said, the mission made several telephone enquiries to the authorities in Qatar to ascertain the status of the requests.
Stephens was arrested in Qatar in November 2008 and charged for a serious offence, the report said, even though the offence was not named. Media reports, however, indicate that he was charged for raping a co-worker's daughter, but was eventually sentenced for mistrust of a minor.
The report to the Senate said he was found guilty by the primary court (court of first instance) in November 2012 and sentenced to five years imprisonment, to be followed by deportation. He filed an appeal, but his conviction was upheld by the Appeal Court in April 2013.