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The Globe and Mail

Officers charged in beating death of Toronto man to appear in Grenada court

Family handout of Oscar Bartholomew

Five police officers charged with beating a Toronto man to death in Grenada are expected to apply for bail Friday.

The five are due in court in the island town of St. David's.

"I suspect that the defence may apply for bail," said Grenada police Supt. Dunbar Belfon.

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"I am not certain if both sides will be ready to start the proceedings, but I would think that both sides would be anxious to at least start the matter."

Supt. Belfon said it would depend on whether the lawyers in the case were prepared to begin a case that has caused outrage and protests.

The officers are charged with manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew.

Relatives said he was beaten into a coma on Boxing Day after he hugged a plainclothes policewoman he'd mistaken for a friend.

He died a day later in hospital.

The case has touched a nerve on this tiny Caribbean island nation as demonstrators have taken to the streets to denounce what they say is endemic police brutality.

Supt. Belfon said he was expecting some kind of demonstration again Friday, but not as large or angry as previous ones.

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"People are beginning to understand that a lot has been done and (it's time) to allow the court process to take its course," Supt. Belfon said.

"We are just, basically right now, trying to reassure the public that the police (are) there to walk with the people."

The officer said the criminal investigation had wrapped up, so no more charges were likely to be laid against anyone else.

An internal investigation was ongoing.

Mr. Bartholomew's friends and family have expressed outrage the officers weren't charged with murder.

During a hearing Monday, hundreds of protesters marched from the courthouse to a nearby police station, demanding the accused be found guilty.

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Mr. Bartholomew lived in Toronto but was in his native Grenada to visit family over the holidays.

His relatives said he had stopped at the police station in St. David's because his wife needed to use the restroom. They said he lifted the officer off the ground in a big hug before realizing she wasn't who he thought she was.

Mr. Bartholomew's family said an independent autopsy found that he died of trauma to the head and multiple injuries to the body. A state autopsy report came to similar but less-detailed conclusions.

Grenada's prime minister has promised a thorough investigation and said there was no reason for tourists to be nervous about visiting the island, which he described as the safest destination in the Caribbean.

The charged officers, all constables, are Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Roddy Felix, Kenton Hazzard and Wendell Sylvester.

A lawyer for one of the accused has called for the government of Grenada to establish a Caribbean-Canadian Commission of Inquiry in an effort to maintain good relations with Canada A funeral is planned in Grenada for Monday.

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