Gilma Camargo, attorney for Walyd Sayed, spoke on Panama's national television channel yesterday regarding the status of her client. Mr. Sayed is the naturalized Panamanian attorney of Palestinian descent who President Martinelli openly and publically accused of being a narcotrafficker, a terrorist, and an instigator and financier of the manifestations in Colon following the sancion of Law 72.
Ms. Camargo stated her client woke up in the morning to calls from friends and family informing him of the accusations, and warning him that the President announced he would be revoking the man's citizenship and deporting him. Ms. Camargo added this was a direct political attack against her client for his origin, and allegedly for his ideology which the President failed to elaborate upon. She accused President Martinelli of committing various international offenses against a naturalized citizen, and said he was acting on behalf of the State when doing so because he made the accusations publically while taking part in a television interview in the role of president of the republic. They will be filing complaints with the Human Rights Commission of the OEA.
The interviewer added that President Martinelli made the accusations based upon intelligence received. Ms. Camargo's measured response was, "It would be irresponsible for a Panamanian intelligence system to permit a person to commit so many offenses and say nothing until the moment when the land upon which [that person] has his business is up for sale."
The interviewer asked the obvious and compelling questions, Who is your client, Why the accusations, What has he done? Again, the attorney's very measured responses can be summarized as Mr. Sayed is a naturalized citizen within his rights to do business and practice law in the country, and is appropriately fearful for his life and security because the city where he lives is under political unrest and police occupation. After further prompting from the interviewer, Ms. Camacho added that Mr. Sayed is a Palestinian from a respectable Catholic family, and lived some decades in Columbia before relocating to Panama. He apparently obtained his citizenship in the 1980's. The interviewer mentioned Mr. Sayed has a business in the free zone and also exercises his profession as a human and civil rights attorney. She said he is well respected and has good relationships with the community in Colon. In response to questions from the interviewer regarding why President Martinelli was targeting him, and whether there was prior history, Ms. Camargo responded that there had been prior incidences, but she didn't know why the president chose this moment to do what he did. She speculated that the president might be sending a message to all businessmen in the free zone (clarifying there are many businessmen in the same situation; ie. Mr. Sayed isn't the only foreigner). She then shifted the conversation back to the actions being taken by her client regarding the issues at hand. She specified there is nothing negative about being Palestinian and there currently are no charges against her client that she is aware of. They are requesting the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights for the OEA take measures to cautiously investigate what prompted this situation, what information they have against Mr. Sayed, and whether there is any 'judicial security'. When asked if her client would file a complaint with the Ministerio Publico (public ministry), Ms. Camacho indicated they first would go through the international organizations and assure that it be known "that justice doesn't exist for anyone in the republic [of Panama] ". She also stated there were other "civil rights violations" that could result in the President being taken to the International Criminal Court. Ms. Camacho ended the interview saying that in Colon there was an arbitrary and disproportionate attack against the civil population, which was protesting peacefully.
Being liberal in the majority of my political beliefs, I can't believe I'm going to say this. But this woman seemed anything but credible. Her demeanor and responses seemed contrived. I was surprised to hear the President make the comments he made on television regarding Mr. Sayed. I thought they were very unusual and somewhat unprofessional. At the time I had sympathy for this unknown individual under attack. But unfortunately, Ms. Camacho neither said nor did anything to create sympathy in me for her client. I was left with more suspicions and doubts than I had before watching the interview.
Out of curiosity (and because there's nothing better to do during the incessant rains) I'll keep monitoring matters.