The defence team of embattled Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab, has kicked against a U.S. District court ruling that Saab’s diplomatic status is not enough to grant him immunity from U.S. proceedings unless and until he personally appears in the United States.
Saab’s lawyers in an opening brief of the appeal, which was filed at the eleventh circuit, insisted that he is entitled to immunity from arrest, detention, and extradition to the United States,
It would be recalled that the initial ruling by the district court was grounded in the “fugitive disentitlement” doctrine, which is a judge-made rule stating that individuals who have fled the court’s authority cannot raise legal arguments until they have been physically brought before the court.
But, Saab’s defence team in a statement argued that this doctrine does not apply in his case because he has never fled the United States or U.S. law enforcement authorities.
The team opposed Saab’s extradition to the United States, stressing that he is a diplomat on mission entitled to immunity.
The team also maintained that Saab is not a fugitive from the United States and that, as Venezuela’s Special Envoy to Iran, he is a diplomatic Head of Mission under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the United States Diplomatic Relations Act, which implements U.S. treaty obligations under that Convention.
Based on binding precedent on both the District Judge and the Court of Appeals, Mr. Saab is entitled to immunity as that was the situation in a case decided in 1984, Abdulaziz v. Meto. Dade County, 741 F.2d 1328 (11th Cir. 1984.
Saab was arrested and detained in Cape Verde based on the request of the Donald Trump led United States government during a stop over on his way to Iran over allegations of money laundering.
This is a move the Venezuelan government faulted with claims that the businessman is its special envoy on a humanitarian mission.
The Venezuelan government claimed that before his arrest, Saab had been on a mission to get food and medical supplies in Iran, stopping over in Cape Verde where he was arrested by security operatives.
The failure of Cape Verdean authorities to obey the ruling of the ECOWAS court by extraditing Saab to the US is not the first contempt for court order by the authorities since his detention last year.
Saab was denied access to any member of his defense team despite three court rulings granting him the right to do so.
Here is the Appeal filed by the Saab’s defence team.