Friday, April 2, 2010

Jamaican court to rule on US extradition request

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Prime Minister Bruce Golding has asked Jamaica's courts to rule on a US request for the extradition of an alleged leader of the Caribbean island's notorious Shower Posse drug gang.

The government is resisting US demands that it hand over Christopher "Dudus" Coke, citing what Golding has described as unauthorized wiretaps and other problems with evidence against him.

The Shower Posse has been blamed for hundreds of killings in the United States, and Coke is wanted on US arms and drug trafficking charges.

The premier told a call-in radio program on Wednesday night that he had asked Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne to send the eight-month-old request before a judge for a decision.

"I have instructed the justice minister to make an application to the court to seek a declaration to determine whether or not there was a breach of the law or the (extradition) treaty," Golding said.

Coke is a member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and holds considerable sway over Golding's volatile constituency in the inner-city district of West Kingston.

In its annual narcotics control strategy report issued last month, the US State Department criticized Jamaica's handling of the Coke matter and said pervasive public corruption was a major barrier to improving the country's counter-narcotics efforts.

"Jamaica's delay in processing the US extradition request for a major suspected drug and firearms trafficker with reported ties to the ruling party highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government," the report said.

Vivian Blake, founder of the Shower Posse, died of natural causes in a Jamaican hospital last month, about a year after returning from a prison term in the United States.

Coke is believed to be the new head of the gang, named for its alleged practice of cutting down rivals in a hail of gunfire in the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

April 2, 2010