Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quest for truth and justice for Jeremiah Duggan

THE family of student Jeremiah Duggan have come a step nearer winning a fresh inquest into his death after a hearing in the High Court yesterday. But while agreeing there were "sufficient unusual circumstances in this case" to warrant granting permission for further proceedings, the judge, Justice Wyn Williams, declined to give an opinion, and said he was "not going to tell the Attorney General what to do".

Jerry Duggan, a north Londoner who had been studying at the Sorbonne, was found lying on a motorway outside Wiesbaden in Germany in the early hours of March 27, 2003. He had gone there to attend what he thought was an anti-war conference, organised by Lyndon LaRouche's Schiller Institute.

After Wednesday's hearing, Jerry's mum, Mrs Erica Duggan said: "What kind of justice system puts a bereaved mother in the situation of having to fight through the courts for what is my right to find out why my son died?"

German police had said Jerry Duggan had run into the path of two oncoming cars. A German coroner recorded a verdict of suicide. But no explanation was given as to why the previously happy and successful student should have decided to take his own life, or how he came to be where his body was found, some miles from where he was staying. After hearing about two phone calls Jerry made, to his mother and to his girlfriend Maya, a British coroners report said Mr Duggan was in "a state of terror" when he died. .

But in a letter on February t6 this year, the Attorney General concluded there was no prospect to order another inquest. At Wednesday's hearing, Dinah Rose, QC, counsel for the Duggan family said there were precedents for a fresh inquest to be ordered if new evidence came to light. Evidence uncovered by Erica Duggan's own inquiries might lead to the conclusion that her son's death was neither suicide nor a road traffic accident.

No witness statements had been produced, not even from the drivers of the two cars that were supposed to have hit Jerry Duggan. He was supposedly hit by a Peugeot, then run over by a VW Golf. The vehicles had been moved when police arrived on the scene. Neither vehicle appeared to have any biological traces such as skin or blood. We were not told how or why this young man apparently ran for some miles, with a full bladder (as was ascertained) before hurtling himself into the path of the cars.

The pathologist who examined Jerry Duggan's body found no evidence such as glass fragments or tire marks, such as would be expected if the young man had been hit by one vehicle and run over by another. The victim had swallowed and inhaled blood - indicating that he died after repeated blows to the head, rather than being fatally struck once by a vehicle going over it. There was bruising on the arms and hands, such as would be suffered by someone trying to defend themselves.

"Your son was severely beaten around the head," the pathologist, Dr.Schon told Erica Duggan when she went to see him. For some reason this pathologist had not been called to give evidence at the inquest, and yet the Attorney General in seeing no reason for a further inquest had not addressed this aspect.

Experts who viewed police photographs of the vehicles had said damage to the Peugeot windscreen and door was not consistent with the impact of a human body but looked more like it could have been done with a crowbar or a baseball bat. There had been broken glass on the driver's seat. But where was the driver?

In contrast to the doubtful evidence of a collision, counsel noted that wet sandy substance had been found on Jerry Duggan's trainers and jeans, and on the vehicles, but not on the road where the accident had supposedly occurred. This indicated that they could have been somewhere else.

Arguing that the Duggans were trying to reopen the case in order to point the accusation at the LaRouchites, Cecilia Ivimy, appearing for the Attorney General, said if their evidence was accepted it would lead to "incredible" conclusions. "Police and doctors attended very promptly," she said. "The police and doctors and an independent investigator found nothing odd about the scene to suggest to them this was not a traffic accident, as it appeared."

The Attorney General's representative said there was no evidence of a crowbar, or of the cars and Jeremiah Duggan having been in a builders' yard, as suggested. The police had interviewed the drivers, and there had been no evidence that the drivers had any reason to lie, or any connection with the LaRouche organisation.

Watching Mrs.Duggan listen to the grisly evidence about her son's death, as I guess she has now had to do several times, and sit patiently through the courtroom niceties and bonhomie - though she did pass detailed notes to her counsel as Ms.Ivimy was speaking - I could only admire her fortitude. Having to track down witnesses and evidence, and consult experts, when neither the German police nor British authorities seem interested, must be exhausting, but each rebuff seems to have strengthened her resolve.

I hope she perseveres, however many legal hoops she has to go through. She has many supporters - family, Jeremiah's student friends, people who have followed the case, and those who know something about American-born cult leader Lyndon LaRouche. Hopefully they will help uncover the truth. Whatever is behind the reluctance of the authorities to look further into this, it is a matter of shame.

for background and campaign news:

Meanwhile - Tiger in a Trap? Sri Lankan in Catch 22

WHILE I was waiting for the Duggan hearing, I caught a glimpse of another little aspect of our justice system at work. The case concerned a man from Sri Lanka who was appealing against being sent back to that island.

I heard a counsel arguing that the man had only been involved at a low level with the guerrilla movement
known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam(LTTE). He had not been a guerrilla fighter, in fact he had refused to fight for them, but had dug bunkers, and provided food when they asked for it. The Sri Lankan authorities had no record of his detention, although he got out with a bribe, and had been able to leave from the airport with the help of an agent.

At first I thought this counsel must be speaking on the Tamil man's behalf, saying he was not such a bad fellow. But then the Tamil's counsel got up to argue that his client had been arrested in 1997, his fingerprints.had been taken, and there were documents on his detention. Then I realised that it had been the government's lawyer who was arguing that the man was not important enough to face any dangers if he was sent back to Sri Lanka, though he had a family member who was in the LTTE. The Tamil was apparently arrested for something else in
Britain, and served a sentence, but has since been held in an immigration detention centre and will have been there three years come January.

It struck me that if the man wanted to prove he faced danger of ill-treatment in Sri Lanka, he might have to convince the authorities here that he was really a big cheese in the LTTE, a serious combatant upon whom the
Sri Lankan authorities were determined to lay hands. Only trouble is, the LTTE is on the British Home Office's list of proscribed "terrorist" organisations, and so claiming to be a Tamil Tiger would not be such a good idea. How do you get out of that one?

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