Jamaican released from Qatar prison finally heads home

stephens in qatar

Paul Stephens at the airport in Qatar. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday August 17, 2015 – A Jamaican man who was waiting for several weeks to get back to his homeland after being released from a Qatar jail is finally on his way back home, according to Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Edmund Bartlett.

Bartlett, who had been lobbying government to make haste in getting the man his needed travel documents, reported to the local media that Paul Stephens had boarded a flight from Qatar yesterday evening.

He did not give any estimated time for Stephens’ arrival in Jamaica, but indicated the flight had to transit through London and Miami before reaching the island.

“This development is the culmination of the efforts of many, particularly his family and friends, who have stuck with him, come to his assistance and made representation on his behalf throughout what has been a most difficult experience,” Bartlett said.

Stephens, who was jailed for mistrust of a minor after originally being charged with molesting a minor, was pardoned on July 7. He was released five days later and taken to a deportation centre where he had been awaiting a passport.

Bartlett had repeatedly questioned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ delay in providing Stephens with the necessary documentation. But in a statement issued on August 4, the ministry said it had “timely processed” an application for a passport and Emergency Certificate received on July 26 and sent the needed documents but Stephens needed to honour “an outstanding obligation” before he could leave the Middle Eastern country.

“While Paul Stephens’ return to Jamaica is long overdue and has been subjected to undue delays and marred by considerable controversy, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief on his behalf and take comfort in the fact that his nightmare and suffering are now over,” Bartlett said.

“If nothing else, what the Paul Stephens case highlights is the critical importance of proactive engagement on the part of our consular services in ensuring the safety and well-being of Jamaicans abroad.”

Stephens was one of several Jamaican pilots who went to Qatar in 2010 after the merger of Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines.

He began serving a five-year prison sentence in January 2013 and after two appeals were unsuccessful, the Jamaica government, through its Embassy in Kuwait, formally submitted a request for Stephens to be pardoned.

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