Accused men face up to 45 years in jail if convicted
Published 13/01/2011 | 05:00
THE three men charged in connection with the murder of Michaela Harte on the island paradise of Mauritius each face up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
The death penalty was abolished in Mauritius in 1995 but the latest murder is likely to reignite the debate about capital punishment.
Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, who is head of the ruling Mauritius Labour Party and studied to be a doctor in Ireland, said last February that he would put the punishment back on the books for sexual offences, drug trafficking and murder.
Unlike in Ireland, where a suspect is charged only after a full garda investigation, police in Mauritius will continue to investigate Michaela's murder up to the point of a full hearing.
Inspector Ranjit Jokhoo, who is second-in-command on the case, said police would continue to question suspects and that charges could be brought against other individuals.
He said "sufficient evidence" had been obtained to provisionally charge the men with murder. This means that the charges can be changed at a later date.
"These charges will give the police breathing time to complete their inquiries and investigations. This is procedure," Mr Jokhoo told the Irish Independent.
Ashveen Gopee, a barrister on the island, explained that a judicial inquiry would be carried out by police officers and the case would be called back by the magistrate at different stages to see how the investigation was continuing. It is rare that a magistrate would strike out a case over a lack of evidence against a suspect.
A suspect can be held in a police cell for 21 days, after which time he or she must go to a jail until the case goes to trial.
Bail applications for the three suspects were rejected yesterday and they are being held at separate facilities. While police hope for a swift conclusion, it could take more than six months for the case to proceed to full trail.
Last night the hotel said in a statement it was "shocked" to hear three of its staff had been provisionally charged with murder and reiterated that staff were co-operating fully with police.
Paul Jones, CEO of Naiade Resorts, the company behind the Legends Hotel, said: "Security for our guests remains our top-most priority."