The recent acquittal of two Metro Vancouver police officers, who have spent more than eight months in legal limbo in Cuba, has sparked cautious optimism among their supporters.
On Monday, family members of Mark Simms and Jordan Long received the news they had been fearing: the prosecution is appealing.
“In Cuba, an appeal is commonplace in criminal matters,” explained Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
“What causes an appeal? There are many factors. Pride of the losing prosecution team. Diplomacy, if one country wants to send a message to the other. Money, if the possibility of funds flowing into Cuba is negotiable.”
The recent development follows the unanimous acquittal of both men by a panel of five female judges.
Simms, a constable with the Vancouver Police Department, had been accused of engaging in sexual activity with a 17-year-old girl —- also a Canadian tourist, visiting from Ontario at the time. He was under investigation for sexual assault. Long, a Port Moody Police constable, was being held as a material witness to the alleged crime.
On Monday, the family members of both men released a joint statement describing their dismay and disappointment with the appeal.
WATCH: B.C. police officers cleared of all charges in Cuba
“Our hopes and prayers in Mark and Jordan’s situation have always been for truth, evidence, fairness and justice to be honoured. This was shown to be the case in a Cuban court of law with the unanimous verdict for acquittal by five female judges. We are so grateful that the Cuban judiciary recognized that the case against Jordan and Mark was based on a lie that had no evidence to support it, but in fact only had evidence to refute it,” the statement said, urging the federal government to intervene in the case.
“We expect the very highest levels of the Government of Canada to take action and work collaboratively with Cuban authorities to expedite this process so that two innocent Canadian police officers, who risk their lives daily to serve the public, are rightfully able to return home without further delay. We also look forward to a prompt OPCC investigation so that the truth of this matter can be fully revealed to Canadian authorities and the Canadian public. Our thoughts are with genuine victims of sexual assault whose experiences are undermined by false accusations such as this.”
The Ministry of Public Safety declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Global News. Richard Walker with Global Affairs Canada confirmed to Global News that consular services are being provided to both men, but declined to elaborate further due to privacy issues.
Relatives of both men say they are optimistic Simms and Long will be back on home soil in time to celebrate Christmas with their families—but legal experts warn the timeline of the appeal process in the Cuban court system can be difficult to predict.
“How long will it take to resolve the case? For this family, the answer’s unknown,” said Kurland. “You just have to sit back and wait. No matter how long. No longer how stressful. No matter how expensive.”