Related topics

Former Dominica Prime Minister Convicted of Treason

October 25, 1985 GMT

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) _ Former Prime Minister Patrick John has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for conspiracy to overthrow the government in a 1981 plot with U.S. mercenaries.

High Court Judge Satrohan Singh handed down the sentence late Wednesday after a jury found John, former Dominica Defense Force deputy commander Malcolm Reid and salesman Julien David guilty at the end of a 12-day trial. Reid was sentenced to 12 years in prison and David drew a five-year term.

They could have been sentenced to death by hanging or life imprisonment.

The judge chastised John after handing down the sentence.

″You could not take the idea of not being leader of Dominica, so you went to the limit to put yourself back into power,″ Singh said.

The defense has 14 days to appeal the conviction.

The former prime minister, who led the country to independence from Britain in 1978, was ousted a year later. There had been a lengthy general strike sparked by crackdowns on the press and the opposition, and reports that John was dealing with South Africa’s white-minority government.

He was jailed in April 1981 after 10 men, six of them with Ku Klux Klan ties, were arrested in New Orleans, La., and convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act. Nine of them received federal prison terms.

According to testimony in the U.S. trial, the mercenaries planned to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Eugenia Charles and return John to power in exchange for rights to establish casinos, off-shore banking and drug operations.

In December of that year, Dominican soldiers stormed police headquarters in an unsuccessful attempt to return John, who was still in prison, to power.

John was acquitted on the treason charges in 1982, but the government won a new trial on appeal to the London Privy Council, the highest legal authority in this Commonwealth nation.

John won a five-year parliamentary term in a July 1 election, and took his seat Aug. 12. His conviction Wednesday forces him to step down immediately, under Dominican law.

The 48-year-old former monk, who left a monastery three decades ago to become a labor leader, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

During the trial, defense attorneys alleged the prosecution’s star witness, security guard Algernon Maffei, was a drug dealer who perjured himself to win a break on murder charges pending against him.