Counsel for Alex Saab, the embattled Venezuelan diplomat currently held in Cape Verde, says he has been denied access to his client, although the client is now under house arrest.
Pinto Monteiro, who is the lead attorney said security officials stationed at the entrance of the apartment Mr. Saab is being held in turned him away when he went to visit on Tuesday.
According to him, the security officials refused him access when he challenged their request to subject him to body search and inspection of his legal documents on the ensuing case.
“When I went to visit Mr. Saab, a policeman wanted to search me. He ordered me to put my hands on the wall, and he wanted to see my lawyer papers about the case. I refused to allow him to search my papers, and they didn’t allow me to visit Mr. Saab,” he said.
He indicated that the move by the security officials breached Cape Verde’s own laws by denying him access to his client.
Mr. Monteiro said he had never had such an encounter with the security officials when he visited Mr. Saab while he was in prison custody.
He said the development is therefore strange.
“They only ask me if I have a cell phone and I leave it at the entrance, but they don’t search me. The law prohibits manual search,” he said concerning his prison visits.
Indeed, the laws of Cape Verde frown upon the denial of access to legal representatives of persons arrested.
“Detainees were allowed prompt access to family members and to a lawyer of their choice and, if indigent, to one provided by the government,” a human rights report recounted the ideal situation expected in Cape Verde.
It is unclear under what circumstance the lawyer will be granted access to Mr. Saab with the substantive case is still ongoing.
Alex Saab was arrested in Cape Verde on the orders of the US in June 2020 on his way to Iran on official duties for the Venezuelan government.
The US wants him extradited to face charges of corruption, but Venezuela has taken a stance against that decision as Mr. Saab’s lawyers fight to stop the process.
Cape Verde has already agreed to extradite him despite a ruling by the ECOWAS court.
The court ordered Cape Verde to first halt the extradition process and then release him from prison to be kept under house arrest.
The ruling was made on December 2, 2020, based on arguments by the lawyers that Alex Saab was suffering a cancer and the inhumane conditions he was being subjected to in prison could deteriorate his health.
After another legal victory, Mr. Saab was eventually released from prison on Monday, January 25, 2021, and put under house arrest.
Meanwhile, Mr. Monteiro says the apartment his client is being held in under house arrest “is good.”
That substantive matter on whether Mr. Saab should be extradited will be determined on February 4, 2021.