Judge rules that defendants will not take stand in dual citizenship case
By the TDN Wire Staff
September 7, 2011 3:30 p.m.
Roseau, Dominica(TDN) — Judge Gertel Thom has ruled that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and education minister Peter St Jean will not take the stand in their own defense when the dual citizenship case against then continues in the High Court in Roseau, Dominica.
PM Skerrit will not testify in his own defense.
The ruling comes three days into a case that could very well determine the future political direction of the country. At issue is whether Skerrit and St Jean acted illegally when they contested the December 2009 general elections in Dominica.
The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) brought the election petition to the court after the December polls, which the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) won 18 - 3. Lawyers for the UWP claim that both Skerrit and St Jean were holders of French passports at the time they accepted nomination for election, thus making them ineligible to continue in Parliament.
Under Dominican law, persons wishing to contest elections cannot be dual citizens when contesting the elections. They must have allegiance only to their country.
Both Skerrit and St Jean claim that they became French citizens at birth, which under the Constitution would exempt them from the requirements laid down in the law.
When the judge made the ruling, Anthony Astaphan, lead counsel for the defendants burst into tears and Skerrit supporters on the outside of the court clapped for joy.
Despite the ruling, the case against the two continues with lawyers for the UWP presenting evidence to back up their case.
Skerrit is the parliamentary representative for the Vielle Case constituency and St Jean represents La Plaine. If the petitions are upheld, the judge could ask the two to vacate their seats in Parliament and could order bye elections in the constituencies.
The defendants are represented by Anthony Astaphan and Heather Evans Felix while the UWP is represented by Douglas Mendez and Stuart Young of Guyana and Geoffrey Letang of Dominica.