ST. DAVID’S, Grenada –
Five police officers charged with beating a Toronto man to death in Grenada were granted bail Friday.
men will be released Jan. 13 if they can raise 100,000 East Carribean
dollars (about C$38,000). They will also have to surrender any travel
The officers are charged with manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew.
say he was beaten into a coma on Boxing Day after he hugged a
plainclothes policewoman he’d mistaken for a friend. He died a day later
The case has touched a nerve on this tiny Caribbean
island nation as demonstrators have taken to the streets to denounce
what they say is endemic police brutality.
During a hearing
earlier this week, hundreds of protesters marched from the courthouse to
a nearby police station, demanding the accused be found guilty.
of protesters also gathered across the road from the court Friday.
While they were largely quiet during the proceeding, they expressed
anger at the decision.
One yelled “no justice, no peace.”
A heavy police and para-military presence kept control and there were no incidents.
In opposing bail, prosecutor Christopher Nelson, said the case had “generated excitement” and widespread interest.
“The events that have brought us here moved citizens to demonstrate,” Nelson told the magistrate.
“To release the accused on bail at this time is likely to lead to public disorder.”
Nelson also warned of the prospect of vigilante justice against the men, one a married father of nine.
But defence lawyer Anslem Clouden, who trained in Canada, said those considerations had no place in the judicial system.
The charged officers, all constables, are Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Roddy Felix, Kenton Hazzard and Wendell Sylvester.
Thursday, Grenada police Supt. Dunbar Belfon said the criminal
investigation had wrapped up, so no more charges were likely to be laid
against anyone else.
An internal investigation is ongoing.
Bartholomew’s friends and family have expressed outrage the officers weren’t charged with murder.
Bartholomew lived in Toronto but was in his native Grenada to visit family over the holidays.
relatives said he had stopped at the police station in St. David’s
because his wife needed to use the restroom. They said he lifted the
officer off the ground in a big hug before realizing she wasn’t who he
thought she was.
Bartholomew’s family said an independent autopsy
found that he died of trauma to the head and multiple injuries to the
body. A state autopsy report came to similar but less-detailed
Grenada’s prime minister has promised a thorough
investigation and said there was no reason for tourists to be nervous
about visiting the island, which he described as the safest destination
in the Caribbean.
A lawyer for one of the accused has called for
the government of Grenada to establish a Caribbean-Canadian Commission
of Inquiry in an effort to maintain good relations with Canada.
A funeral is planned in Grenada for Monday.