As the United States government continues to push for the extradition of Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab from Cape Verde, a former attorney and government adviser, Daniel Fridman, has warned that the promise by the US to charge Saab with only one count of conspiracy lacks substance.
The US government had recently announced that it would drop seven out of the eight charges listed in the Extradition Request to Cape Verde.
This promise was made in a bid to adhere to Cape Verde’s constitutional restriction on extradition if the extraditee faces the death penalty or a whole life sentence.
Saab was arrested on June 12, 2020 after his private jet made a stopover at Cape Verde on his way to Iran for a humanitarian mission on behalf of the Venezuelan government.
The businessman is caught up in a feud between Venezuela, his country, and the US.
The US put pressure on Cape Verde to arrest Saab with plans of extraditing him to face corruption charges.
But Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro who recently appointed Saab as ambassador to the African Union (AU) kicked against the move.
It was on that basis that Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court to stop the extradition.
In a verdict, the regional court ordered the immediate release of the envoy from prison and he was placed him under house arrest for health reasons.
It also ordered that extradition hearing be suspended in Cape Verde pending the hearing and determination of the suit before it in Abuja, Nigeria.
However, Fridman has warned that the promise lacks substance because only courts and not the executive can provide such an undertaking.
Meanwhile, renowned American lawyer Nancy Hollander has joined the defence team working to secure Saab’s release and prevent his extradition by the Cape Verdean government.
Hollander rose to public prominence for being the lead lawyer defending Chelsea Manning, the American soldier who leaked files to Wikileaks in 2013, and for also representing a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, later released without charges. The story of the latter formed the basis of the recently released Hollywood film, The Mauritanian, in which actress Jodie Foster plays Hollander.
The failure of Cape Verdean authorities to obey the ruling of the ECOWAS court by extraditing Saab to the US is not the first contempt for a court order exhibited by the authorities since his detention last year.