For 2 1/2 years, Jermaine Rogers has been in a Kuwait prison. Now, his family has found it more difficult to communicate with him, and a representative from the U.S. Department of State has not visited him since September.
Rogers, a Connecticut native who was stationed at Fort Hood during his time in the U.S. Army, was originally sentenced to death by hanging on drug charges on Sept. 25, 2016.
A year ago, in February 2017, that sentence was reduced to life in prison. Both Rogers and his family maintain that he is innocent, and that a medley of things — from a faulty search warrant to evidence that they suspect was planted in his file — have prevented him from a fair shot at freedom.
“They (The Department of State) don’t check on him, they won’t even (deliver) the letters that his mom writes to him,” said Karina Mateo, Rogers fiance, in an email. “We haven’t been able to get him a new court day.”
On Oct. 6, 2015, Rogers was in his apartment in Mahboula, a town that sits on the Persian Gulf, when police officers carried out a search warrant at his home. That resulted in his arrest, on a charge of cocaine possession. He was held in prison for nearly a year, until he was sentenced to death by hanging on Sept. 25, 2016.
Rogers’ family members said they feel desperate as they wait for news stateside. They have sent 104 letters to U.S. Senators, and so far, only Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, has responded. He reached out to John Kerry while Kerry was the secretary of state and asked Kerry’s office to investigate and “demand fair and equitable treatment for Mr. Rogers,” according to a copy of his letter. Blumenthal has reached out again, Mateo said, but so far, that’s the only help they’ve received.
The office of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also confirmed that they’ve been in contact with Mateo, though an aide declined to specify what they’ve done to help.
“The embassy cut all the communication, so now we are paying a ridiculous amount in order for him to be able to use the phone from time to time,” Mateo said. Previously, communication was provided through a lawyer appointed by the Department of State.
Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, said that the department has not yet given up on Rogers.
“The Department of State takes seriously its responsibilities to assist U.S. citizens abroad and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular services to U.S. citizens in need,” he said in an email. “Consular officers from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait have visited Mr. Rogers regularly since his arrest, including most recently on September 20, 2017 and continue to provide all possible consular assistance.”
Rogers is not the only U.S. citizen to run into this problem. On May 8, 2015, veteran U.S. Army soldier and contractor Monique Coverson and her partner Larissa Joseph were arrested by Kuwait police and charged with the possession of marijuana. The couple insists that the substance seized was not marijuana, but rather K2, a synthetic marijuana. Coverson’s mother Michelle Jackson has spoken to other media outlets, and thinks that the reason the duo is being held in jail is because they are gay, something that is not looked upon favorably by Kuwaitis. Homosexuality between two males is illegal in Kuwait, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Cross-dressing is also a crime, according to the U.S. Department of State website, with a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment for imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public.
In 2017, the Associated Press reported that six people working at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, have been fired for using or possessing illegal drugs. Opium production is a major source of income for insurgents and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the story said.
The Department of State has warnings on its website for those traveling to Kuwait.
“You risk immediate imprisonment for possession of alcohol or driving under the influence. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs, synthetics, and drug-making ingredients are severe,” the website said. ”Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. If arrested for criminal violations, you may be detained for weeks without formal charges being filed.”
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