Venezuelan Envoy's Defense Team 'Confident' W. African Court Will Block Extradition To US

Venezuelan Envoy's Defense Team 'Confident' W. African Court Will Block Extradition to US

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 13th August, 2021) Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde) justices during proceedings on Friday are likely to rule against extraditing Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab to the United States given the lack of any basis in international law, defense attorney Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro told Sputnik.

Cape Verde authorities, acting on behalf of the United States, arrested Saab during a fuel stop last July for alleged sanctions violations. Saab was en route to Iran on a humanitarian mission as special envoy for the Venezuelan government when he was apprehended in Cape Verde, an island-nation situated off West Africa's coast.

"My team and I are confident, given the precedents of the Constitutional court itself, that the Honorable Justices will recognize these and decide against extradition," Pinto Monteiro said. "There is simply no basis for Cabo Verde to flout its obligations under the international law."

The court, he added, has an obligation under the 1961 Vienna Convention to respect in transitu immunity of special envoys.

"Whether Cabo Verde knew about Mr. Saab's diplomatic status at the time of his apprehension, it is certainly aware of it now, given the numerous oral and written representations by both Venezuela and Iran," the defense attorney said.

Moreover, he added, considering there is no bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and Cape Verde, the court enjoys "tremendous discretion as to whether to grant such requests.

" Not to mention the fact that the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to uphold Saab's claim given how strongly in transitu immunity is anchored in American law.

"It would be a travesty for Cabo Verde not just to violate its solemn international law obligations, but send a special envoy of the two countries with which it enjoys excellent relations - Venezuela and Iran - to the United States, only to have US courts release Mr. Saab," Pinto Monteiro said.

In addition to ties with Iran and Venezuela, he warned that a decision to extradite could damage the island-nation's relations with other regional partners who are members of the African Union.

On Thursday, the court accepted as new evidence a revised warrant with Saab's name on it to replace the original, which was under someone else's. Pinto Monteiro said the prosecutor submitted this "new evidence" a month ago without notifying the defense team.

In the meantime, the defense lawyer said his client is under house arrest and being watched by up to 50 heavily-armed guards despite the Supreme Court of Cape Verde declaring that Saab is "free."

On Thursday, the Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Information and Press Department, N.T. Lakhonin, condemned Saab's detention which he said could set a harmful precedent. He warned that the desire of US authorities to extradite a third-country diplomat may have a "boomerang effect" and a negative impact on international relations.