An A.M. Costa Rica reprint
Published Thursday, July 24, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 146

A.M. Costa Rica Page One
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Contents copyrighted 2008 by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. (cédula juridica 3-101-290-170).  Republication without permission is prohibited under U.S. and Costa Rican laws and international conventions.


Tomayko extradition case could cause internal rift
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A collision between the executive and judicial branches of government is possible after the security minister granted refugee status to a woman wanted by a U.S. federal court to face an international child-stealing indictment, said a lawyer Wednesday.

“After 26 years of practicing law, I've never seen something like this,” said lawyer Edgar Emilio León, who works in the firm supporting another side of the case.

After rounds of applause, the security minister, Janina Del Vecchio was greeted with hugs and words of thanks from supporters of Chere Lyn Tomayko after she announced her decision Wednesday. Ms. Tomayko, who has been wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for years, remained in Buen Pastor women's prison Wednesday evening, but television camera men waited outside and reported that she could be set free soon. Judges will decide when Ms. Tomayko is released, said Ms. Del Vecchio during the conference.

“If I had to bet, I'd say there are two possibilities,” said León, “the court does not follow through with the previous extradition ruling or they ignore the minister's decision and go through with the extradition anyway.” León emphasized the original extradition ruling made by a tribunal in Heredia was firm.  His firm represents Roger Cyprian, the father of Alexandria, the daughter who Tomayko is accused of spiriting to Costa Rica with 10 years ago.

Ms. Tomayko filed four Sala IV constitutional court appeals to delay her extradition.

Ms. Vecchio said that she had decided to grant Ms. Tomayko refugee status for reasons which included domestic violence and human rights. Refugee status protects Ms. Tomayko from the U.S. government and a trial on the child-stealing charge.  The fears of the family were well founded, said Ms. Del Vecchio "There is no doubt that domestic violence is one of the acts that cause more suffering and fear, causing mental and physical harm and that has been used as a mechanism of persecution."

When asked if she had spoken to the original Texas judge in the case before she made her decision, Ms. Del Vecchio responded that she had not, and that she did not need to talk to other countries to make these kinds of decisions. None of the other public officials involved in the case are believed to have sought information from Texas either. Cyprian denies abusing Ms. Tomayko and said he hardly saw her for the three years before she fled the country after he was awarded joint custody in Texas.

cheering fans
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Two public officials cheer along with Javier Montero Umaña as decision is announced.
Ms. Del Vecchio's decision went against the views of the director of immigration, Mario Zamora Cordero, who had previously commented on Ms. Tomayko's case and the issue of refugee status. Zamora said numerous times that Costa Rica only grants refugee status to people in danger from armed conflicts. Zamora specifically said in a prepared statement Wednesday morning that domestic violence was not a qualification to become a refugee in Costa Rica. The   immigration law would have to be amended to accommodate a refugee plea such as escape from domestic violence, said Zamora. He works for Ms. Del Vecchio, and his statement was released before her announcement.

Ms. Del Vecchio said to ignore domestic violence as grounds for recognition of refugee status would simply ignoring the basic international doctrine of international refugee law. She said the international refugee agreement of 1951 supported her decision.

When confronted with the opinions of Cyprian: that the Texas judge had found no proof of abuse, and that Ms. Tomayko had also alleged sexual abuse which was discredited by physicians who examined the children, Ms. Del Vecchio said there were other reasons besides domestic violence which she considered in her decision-making. She did not say what those other reasons were. She did say they would be available in a copy of her final decision. Her written decision was not available Wednesday, said a security spokesman.
 
Ms. Del Vecchio said not all victims of domestic violence would be able to receive refugee status, but that this was a specific case. "Every case of domestic violence should be seen in the light of its own particularities. This does not open any doors," she said. 

A famous person who found safety in Costa Rica was Robert Vesco who was wanted by the United States for security fraud, Costa Rica did in fact create a law for him in. Vesco supposedly donated $2.1 million to Sociedad Agricola Industrial San Cristobal, S.A., a company founded by then-president José Figueres. Vesco, who was named by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world, was never extradited. A later president repealed the law known as the “Vesco Law,” and Vesco was forced to move elsewhere.

The firm in which León works was hired to represent Cyprian's interest in Costa Rica. He initially wanted to maintain a parental relationship with his daughter Alexandria. But after she turned 18 and her mother was arrested on an international child stealing warrant, the daughter said she did not want to talk with him.

Cyprian wanted to bring his side of the case to the news media here. No reporter for a Costa Rican Spanish-language news outlet has spoken with him. He was unhappy with being branded repeatedly as a violent aggressor.

Alexandria Cyprian was a key player in the public relations campaign staged by the family in an effort to block Ms. Tomayko's extradition. She appeared in television segments and in newspaper interviews along with Javier Francisco Montero Umaña, a Heredia veterinarian and the man who married Ms. Tomayko April 6. The couple have two small children who also were presented to the news media.

After Ms. Del Vecchio announced her decision, Alexandria Cyprian stood up and hugged her.

Although it may not be related, the U.S. Embassy canceled a ceremony for today in which what was called an important donation was to be made to the security ministry's air service.