Woman files $40M lawsuit against CANU

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A United States-based woman is suing the State and the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit (CANU), after she was asked to strip naked and squat by officers at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Sunday.

Ayana Adams, who is Guyanese by birth and a US citizen, was in the process of returning to New York on a Caribbean Airlines flight, after vacationing in her homeland. According to her Attorney, Siand Dhurjon, her ordeal started after her luggage – two suitcases and one carryon bag – was searched and she had passed through security screening.

“She was told she was clear, she went through immigration where she did the regular body scans. Just as she was putting on her shoes, she saw the same CANU guy that searched her. And he told her to have a seat,” the lawyer told INews.

“Then two females from CANU took her into a room with mattresses on the wall. And she was told they have to do a thorough scan and that she needed to take off her clothes. She protested, of course. And she asked what the problem is. And they said it’s just procedure.”

He related that she reluctantly took off her jump suit, leaving just her bra and underwear. The Attorney said that the agents were not satisfied, demanding that she take off all her clothes, squat and cough as they needed to check “her abdomen and her guts.”

Attorney-at-Law Siand Dhurjon

“She protested and said she wanted to see the supervisor. And then some man came and said this is the procedure. And this is what you’ll have to do, or else we will have to take you to go and do an X-Ray.”

“By then I was contacted,” the lawyer explained. “And I tried contacting the airport to tell them they don’t have the power to force someone to do a cavity search or an X-Ray or any procedure of the sort. They need a court order to do that.”

Dhurjon explained that his client’s reason for not wanting to squat was because she was experiencing her menstrual cycle, a fact that was explained to the CANU officers to no avail. He said they insisted on her going through the procedure.

The attorney said after a while, his client was taken to sign documentations, then transported to Woodlands Hospital. He said during this time, Adams’ luggage was left for extended periods unattended and with no padlock.

“By then I showed up at the hospital and I notified all the CANU ranks that they have no power to do this, this is an unlawful procedure that my client should not be under arrest. And we told them we do not consent to any X-ray or medical test done on my client. And they still went into the room, behind my back when I wasn’t looking, and they did it.”

“And it was found she had nothing inside of her. And I asked them if she is under arrest still. And they said they still have to take her to CANU headquarters again to await further instructions from the Director.”

Afterwards, he said, they endured further hassle seeking accommodations for Adams as she had already missed her flight. She had previously stayed at the Marriott, where Dhurjon said approximately US$1800 was spent.

According to the lawyer, his client was previously promised accommodation at a hotel. After she supplied proof of her stay at the Marriott, however, she was bluntly told she could not be accommodated at any hotel and that she would have to stay at friends of CANU’s headquarters.

To make matters worse, her requests for a copy of her X-ray was denied. He noted that his client is a medical student who has two jobs abroad. He explained that she has no priors and was profiled and humiliated by the officers.

According to Dhurjon, they will be filing a lawsuit against the State to seek compensation for the missed flight, accommodation, missing school and her work and damages for the breach of his client’s human rights.

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