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Law students want DEA to release Dudus tapes

Wednesday, January 09, 2013 | 11:21 AM    

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NEW YORK (CMC) – Three Yale Law School students have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request calling on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to release aerial surveillance footage compiled during the operations by security forces in Jamaica to detain Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke who was wanted in the US on drugs and firearms charges.

In 2010, Jamaica police and military officials moved into Tivoli Gardens in a bid to arrest Coke, following an extradition request from Washington. The operations led to the deaths of more than 70 civilians.

The three students filed the suit on behalf of Mattathias Schwartz, the reporter who covered the event for The New Yorker magazine.

The suit, which was filed on December 19, 2012, arose from Freedom of Information requests that Schwartz had made to the DEA and other federal agencies for records pertaining to the Tivoli operation. The DEA has until January 22 to respond.

An article appearing on the Yale Law School website, notes that although the DEA has acknowledged in response to Schwartz’s requests that it is in possession of six DVDs containing aerial surveillance footage of the raid, it has refused to release them, citing six exemptions under the US Freedom of Information Act.

The students, who are members of Yale's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA), argue in the complaint, filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of New York, that none of the exemptions are applicable to the footage being sought.

The MFIA was established to, among other things, defend the public’s right of access to government information.

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has called on the Jamaica Parliament to explain why the Office of the Public Defender has still not produced a report on its investigation into the Tivoli Gardens incursion.

Public Defender Earl Witter has missed self-imposed deadlines to produce the report and JFJ executive director Susan Goffe said it is unacceptable that the country remains in the dark on the status of the probe.

“We are at a point of being stalled in this process because this, a report, is the next step in forcing the way forward. So here we are in 2013 and we will be calling on the Speaker of the House to update us on what the position currently is,” she said, adding that a petition containing 200 names had been submitted to Parliament last month.

The petition called for the Office of the Public Defender to be provided with the necessary resources so that the report on the Tivoli investigation can be submitted by the end of January.

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