With Dudus Locked Up, Jamaicans Exhale

The alleged drug lord whose supporters rocked the island nation in a bloody wave of violence pleaded not guilty in a U.S. court.

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Dudus in a U.S. federal court (SHIRLEY SHEPARD/AFP/Getty)

Kingston is quiet again and Jamaicans collectively are exhaling now that Christopher "Dudus" Coke left for the United States to face charges on drug and gun-trafficking charges.

In handcuffs and in prison blues, he pleaded not guilty on Friday in front of a U.S. judge in Manhattan Federal Court.

A day earlier before a resident magistrate in Jamaica, Coke had waived his right to challenge an extradition order that Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding initially resisted signing.  Coke is the "don" or "community leader" of Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in the nation's capital, part of Golding's constituency.

Jamaican civic and business leaders, as well as international observers, condemned Golding for maintaining this traditionally close link between politicians and dons, and pressured the government until he and his Jamaica Labour Party Administration backed down and signed the order.

Under a State of Emergency, Jamaica's security forces moved to execute the warrant for Coke May 24, leading to a violent four-day confrontation that left 73 people dead and Coke on the run.

Last month Coke's supporters in the infamous Tivoli Gardens and nearby communities attacked police stations, burning one to the ground, and turned whole neighborhoods into fortresses.

This week, police stopped a car driven by a member of the clergy who before the State of Emergency had tried to get Coke to turn himself in. Wearing a wig in the passenger seat was Coke. Rev. Al Miller said that he was on his way to the United States Embassy to deliver Coke. It's worth noting that Christopher Coke's own father Lester Coke died in a mysterious prison cell fire in 1992 in Jamaica, while awaiting extradition.

Police took Christopher Coke and let Miller go, but a day later asked him to come in for questioning. Late Thursday police charged Miller with harboring a fugitive and perverting the course of justice. He was granted bail and must appear in court July 2.

Meanwhile, in a statement his lawyers issued, Coke asked Jamaicans to pray for him. "I take this decision for I now believe it to be in the best interest of my family, the community of West Kingston and in particular the people of Tivoli and above all Jamaica," the statement said.

Knolly Moses, a former Newsweek reporter, lives in Jamaica.

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