August 30, 2016

Case dismissed against woman charged with racial hostility against President on social media

The woman who was accused of inciting racial hostility on Facebook against President David Granger is now free after the case was dismissed on the grounds of nullity on Thursday.

Bibi Safoora Salim

Bibi Safoora Salim

The case was thrown out by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan after the woman’s lawyer convinced the court that the charge was null and void, given that the country’s laws do not cater for offences of that nature.
The Chief Magistrate, upon examination of the defence, conceded that charges cannot be instituted in this regard since there is actually no law governing the conduct of such a case.
Fifty-two-year-old Bibi Safoora Salim of Vergenoegen, East Bank Essequibo, was arrested and charged under the Racial Hostility Act after posts of her using derogatory statements and issuing death threats against President David Granger went viral.
It is also alleged that she used offensive remarks about the President in messages sent via WhatsApp to her son, Asif Salim.
This controversial episode sparked a nationwide debate, with some contending that the arrest was an infringement upon freedom of speech.
The mother of three had post, “Granger want a bullet in head… I am out of a job now because of them.”
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had accused the Government of targeting PPP/C supporters saying that when it was in power, serious threats were made against leaders and officials of the PPP/C Administration, but they did not pursue them in such a  manner.
Shortly after this incident, a Berbice man named Rameshwar Beekham was charged for threatening to kill former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar as well as other top PPP/C leaders.
Unlike Salim, he made a direct threat to the lives of the former Presidents and politicians.
Subsequent to his arrest, he was taken to Dr Bhiro Harry at the psychiatric ward of the Georgetown Public Hospital for a mental evaluation and it was found that he was of sound mind.
According to Beekham, it started out when he made a comment about independence and praising the Government. He said because of speaking the truth on Facebook, he was attacked by “PPP supporters” who made ridiculous and threatening comments.
“I was not strong enough to take those comments, which I regret. I am sorry,” he told the court.
Beekham had posted, “I will one day with my gang, I am equipping and training, will walk in Freedom House and murder Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C top brass”.
He pleaded guilty to the charge and was convicted and fined $75,000.