Former Trinidadian solider pleads guilty in US court

WASHINGTON DC, USA, November 21, 2007 – Former Trinidadian soldier Jason Errol Percival has pleaded guilty in a Washington DC court to kidnapping a US citizen in Trinidad in 2005, US Attorney Jeffrey A Taylor revealed on Tuesday.

He was the third Trinidadian to plead guilty.

The US has charged 12 people with the hostage-taking resulting in the death of US citizen Balram Maharaj in 2005 when he was on vacation in his former homeland.

Eight have been extradited while extradition has been requested for four others.

Percival, 34, formerly of Lower Santa Cruz, Trinidad, pleaded guilty on Friday before the Justice John D Bates in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to the charges of hostage-taking resulting in death and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death.

He faces a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.

The United States has agreed not to seek the death penalty.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Percival was arrested in Trinidad and extradited to the United States on February 22, 2007.

Seven others were extradited to the United States in connection with the hostage-taking of Maharaj.

They were David Suchit, Russel Jerry Joseph also known as “Saucy,” Winston Gittens, Wayne Pierre also known as “Ninja”, Kevin Nixon also known as “Shaka,” Christopher Sealey also known as Christopher Bourne and “Boyie,” and Anderson Straker also known as “Gypsy’s Son,”.

Suchit pleaded not guilty and was found not guilty at his trial and was released.

Joseph and Gittens, however, pleaded guilty.

Four other wanted by the US are fighting extradition, they are: Sgt Leon Nurse, Corporal Ricardo De Four, Kevon Demerieux, and Zion Clarke.

The prosecution said that in April 2005 Maharaj, a naturalized American citizen of Trinidadian heritage, returned to his native land to visit his family. On April 6, 2005, he was seized by armed gunmen as he sat relaxing at the Samaan Tree Bar.

Maharaj, 61, suffered from poor health and was held hostage under very harsh conditions, including depriving him of essential medications, while his abductors demanded a ransom from his family for his release, according to the government evidence.

The dismembered and badly decomposed body of Maharaj was located by the authorities in a remote area of Trinidad on January 8, 2006.