Knowles tells his story

Austin 'Ozzie' Knowles.

Months before he was extradited to the United States on suspicion of drug trafficking, Austin “Ozzie” Knowles spent more than 12 years on bail, but was taken into custody last November after attempting to appeal his case to the Privy Council.

Knowles spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News in February about his case.

Behind prison bars, locked away in maximum security at The Bahamas Department of Corrections (BDOC) in a cramped cell with two other men at the time, Knowles questioned the legal system and how he and others were being treated.

Up to that point, he had spent four months at the correctional facility, and an additional two years before that fighting drug related charges.

As he awaited a decision by the Privy Council, Knowles appeared to be growing frustrated as a response from his last alternative could mean another five years of imprisonment.

“I was on bail for twelve and a half years. I went to the Appeals Court and the appeals court took my bail,” Knowles shared.

“When I came out on bail in 2004, I was given bail by a Supreme Court Judge. An hour later when I got bail, I went to the Privy Council who reinstated my bail.”

The suspected drug smuggler questioned the operations of the justice system in this regard.

“What is the reason for them taking our bail? We can’t be a flight risk.  We were on the road for 12 years. My thing is I want to know where is the sovereignty for us as Bahamians,” he said.

Knowles withdrew his application to the Privy Council to appeal his case and was extradited on Friday, May 4. Through his attorney Damien Gomez, Q.C, Knowles cited a number of health challenges that he attributed to the inhumane conditions at the BDOC.

Back in February, Eyewitness News was able to get a first-hand view of Knowles’ cell – the only one on in maximum security with an operable light. It was considered a luxury by the other inmates, who spent hours on end in the dark.

Knowles and the other inmates in the over-crowded facility would defecate and urinate in sloop buckets, in the same space where their meals would be served.

“We have no ventilation,” he said.

“This is not very humane. The officers do a good job but they are working in these poor conditions as well… I think this is so unfair.”

Faced with mounting health issues, for Knowles according to his attorney, extradition was the only way out.

“There are 168 hours in a week,” Knowles said.

“We only get four hours outside. The rest is spent here all day and night. I want people to know about the inhumane conditions and  the courts need to answer why we were placed here after spending 12 years on bail.”