Saturday, February 4, 2012

Accused Canadian enters not guilty plea; alleges abuse in Mexican jail

Cynthia Ann Vanier claims "physical, mental and emotional abuse" while incarcerated

Chetumal, Quintana Roo -- The Canadian woman accused of being the brains behind a conspiracy to smuggle a son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi into Mexico appeared in a criminal court in this Caribbean coast city yesterday (Feb. 3), to enter a formal plea to the charges. Cynthia Vanier, of Mount Forest, Ontario, is being held at a prison facility far away from the condominium which she owns in Mexico City, where she was arrested last year. The property allegedly has been seized by the government.

Vanier entered a plea of not guilty during the hearing, which was the equivalent of an arraignment under U.S. law. She told the judge that she had been "physically, mentally and emotionally abused" during her incarceration, but did not elaborate on the claims.

The curious international conspiracy, discovered last September by intelligence services here, is said to have involved three other participants, including a Danish man and two Mexican women. One of the women appeared at the same hearing with Vanier and entered an identical plea. Authorities in this country refer to their breakup of the plan as Operación Huésped. Saadi Gaddafi, the subject of the alleged smuggling plot, was not charged by prosecutors. Under Mexican human trafficking laws he is considered a victim and witness, and cannot be prosecuted. Gaddafi is currently under house arrest in Niger.

The plot suspects had been under preventive detention since November, charged with possession of false documents, human trafficking and organized crime activity. All the offenses carry heavy penalties. A Mexican judge completed a preliminary review of the case and found sufficient evidence for a trial on Jan. 31, and issued formal arrest warrants for the four suspects the same day. The two women arrived in court yesterday under heavy security. The judge explained their legal rights with their defense counsel present. No further hearings have been scheduled.

Saadi Gaddafi never made it to Mexico. He fled Libya when the family regime collapsed and was later detained in Niger, where he remains. Saadi was a prominent businessman in the country during his father's 42 year reign. He also controlled military units during last year's popular civil uprising, which resulted in his father's capture and execution in October.

Mexican court orders Canadian, three others to stand trial in Gaddafi plot

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