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Ministry says Jamaican in Qatari prison not yet released

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE MINISTRY of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade yesterday dismissed claims by Opposition Spokesman Edmund Bartlett that Paul Stephens, a Jamaican pilot incarcerated in Qatar, has been released.

In a media release a day earlier, Bartlett welcomed the release of Stephens following his intervention as shadow minister.

However, the story took another twist when the ministry said that up to July 9, 2015, the Jamaican national remained in custody.

In a Gleaner interview yesterday, Bartlett said Stephens is expected to be in the next batch of prisoners to be released this Sunday. He said during the observance of Ramadan, some prisoners are released between July 4 and 17 in Qatar. He said yesterday a batch of 10 was released.

"Factually, he is in there (incarcerated), but actually he is in the release batch (for Sunday)," Bartlett stressed.

On Wednesday, Stephens was interviewed on Nationwide Radio, where he thanked the country for its efforts in seeking to secure his release.

In Bartlett's earlier release to the media, he said, "The Opposition is pleased that Mr Stephens' release comes in the wake of our strident advocacy and pleadings on his behalf. The opposition leader and I met with the Qatari ambassador in Washington, DC, just a few weeks ago, as we wrapped up a series of engagements in the diaspora recently."

In a subsequent release, Bartlett said he "finds worrying, a report by one of the daily newspapers that the Government of Jamaica was unaware of Tuesday's release of the Jamaican who had been languishing in a Qatari prison some 24 hours after the fact despite the prominence and public interest that have surrounded the case."

In its release yesterday, the foreign affairs ministry said it anticipates that the Jamaican would be released soon.

The ministry said once it is notified formally by the Qatari authorities of the release of the Jamaican national, arrangements will be put in place swiftly for the issue of an emergency travel document, as necessary, to enable the Jamaican national to depart Qatar.