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Posted at 10:03 AM ET, 06/14/2011

Life in prison for 7 men after deadly hostage incident in Trinidad

Seven men from the nation of Trinidad have been sentenced to life in prison in the District’s federal court for taking a U.S. citizen hostage, holding him in brutal conditions and allowing him to die.

Balram Bachu Maharaj, 62, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., was a naturalized U.S. citizen of Trinidadian heritage who was visiting his native country in 2005 to check on his mother when he was kidnapped from a bar by armed men. The kidnappers took him to a remote jungle, where Maharaj was bound, gagged and tied to a post.

Suffering from various medical problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition, Maharaj’s health quickly worsened while in captivity. He died after seven days.

“He was repeatedly interrogated, brutally mistreated, and he was forced to die a slow, agonizing death while his kidnappers haggled to extract every dollar Mr. Maharaj’s family could raise, beg, or borrow in exchange for his safe return,” federal prosecutors Bruze Hegyi and Emily Miller wrote in court papers.

The kidnappers dismembered Maharaj’s body, which was found in 2006.

The FBI and Trinidadian authorities investigated the kidnapping and have arrested 11 people. Four have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Seven others — those sentenced on Friday to life in prison by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates — were convicted in July 2009 of hostage-taking resulting in death.

The case was prosecuted in the District’s federal court because it is the default venue in cases involving the kidnapping of U.S. citizens overseas.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia identified those sentenced to life in prison as Zion Clarke, 33; Ricardo De Four, 38; Kevon Demerieux, 28; Kevin Nixon, 33; Wayne Pierre, 42; Christopher Sealey, 39; and Anderson Straker, 37.

Those who pleaded guilty: Jason Percival, 37; Russel Joseph 37; Winston Gittens, 45; and Leon Nurse, 46.

A woman, Doreen Alexander, who had a relationship with Maharaj, was indicted last year on charges of hostage resulting in death. She remains in Trinidad.

By  |  10:03 AM ET, 06/14/2011

Categories:  From the Courthouse, Del Quentin Wilber, Around the World

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