Trinidadian pastor granted nearly $1-million bail

Trinidadian pastor granted nearly $1-million bail

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — A pastor is due to return to court on January 10 after he was granted TT$900,000 bail on Wednesday on charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and trafficking in persons, after law enforcement officials raided his Transformed Life Ministry church last October and “rescued” more than 69 people.

Pastor Glen Awong and one of his employees, Indra Jaggernath, appeared before Magistrate Cheron Raphael in the Arima Magistrate’s Court, east of here. Jaggernath has been granted TT$300,000 bail and will also return to court on January 10.

They have been jointly charged with keeping people under exploitative conditions, contrary to the Trafficking against Persons Act.

Awong was also charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. All charges were laid indictably.

During the court session, attorney Wayne Sturge, who is representing Jaggernath, asked reporter Mark Bassant to leave the court saying that the journalist, who was reporting on the hearing, was privy to information that could be used as evidence, and called on him to depart.

“I am also asking on him to not report on anything he would have heard while sitting in the court,” Sturge said, adding that his client had no prior convictions and had been taken to hospital for treatment on two occasions since her arrest on Tuesday.

Awong’s attorney Darren Mitchell said his client had no pending matters before the court and had strong ties to his community through his rehabilitation work as a pastor.

Awong and his wife had surrendered to police on Monday. The wife was released without any charges being laid against her.

On October 8 last year, the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), headed by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith went to Awong’s “rehab centre”, where police said they said they rescued 69 people, some naked and locked in cages. Those “rescued” were between the ages 19 to 70 years old.

Awong was charged with kidnapping a man, as well as false im­imprisonment and trafficking of persons between the period January 30, 2019 to July 2019.