‘I am a fan of the Teacher’ - Isat Buchanan, the human rights crusader who has taken over Kartel’s case

June 29, 2020
Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel
Isat Buchanan
Isat Buchanan
Isat Buchanan
Isat Buchanan

Isat Buchanan, a prominent attorney-at-law, was on a path into the music industry before law came into the picture. Steadfast and invested in building a music career, he even pushed back at the predictions of an African spiritualist, who told him at age 31 that he would become a lawyer. In retrospect, he is amazed by how life unfolded.

"I would say life and destiny has set me on the course to practising law. I was told by a Baba, an African spiritualist, that I was going to be a lawyer. At the time he told me that, believe me, I was focused on music and really thought the man was a fraud for telling me this," Buchanan told THE STAR.

But two years later, life catapulted him down the roads of the justice system.

"While I was always a bright student and doing well at university, I found myself locked up in federal prison, labelled just another Negro in the system. So my ambitions to be a lawyer changed with my reality at the time."

Buchanan has been retained by entertainer Vybz Kartel to get the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to overturn his murder conviction and life sentence.

"I am a fan of the Teacher so working on the appeal, previously on team Shawn 'Storm' Campbell-led by Bert Samuels, brought me to his attention. All the attorneys previously did a lot of work and this case has brought the entire justice system into uncharted waters," he told THE STAR.

"Kartel is a very intelligent man. He is a national treasure and dancehall's lifeline, so when I heard that he wanted me to represent him along with QC David Hislop from the UK, I could never say no."


But even before the Kartel case, the name Buchanan was already ringing bells. He quickly became the 'hot lawyer' on the block. He is the lawyer representing Jodian Fearon's family and the man engaged by Stand Up For Jamaica to secure the release of men who have been locked up because they are mentally unfit to stand trial.

"The only people who tease me about doing big things are my criminal law students at The University of the West Indies. Jamaica hot, so every lawyer hot. Ace can't cool you when you have on the robe," he said laughing.

"My ultimate goal practising law is to help my fellow Jamaicans to know their constitutional rights and to learn that they are to be treated with respect from the creatures of the constitution that are put in Government to serve us," he said.

"My hope is to contribute to the legal landscape and hopefully bring us to a place where we can empower the community and the victims of crime and violence in such a way that justice is served not by locking away young people and turning them into criminals, destroying their futures for mistakes that need not close doors to their advancement in life."


Buchanan, a Constant Spring, St Andrew native, described his childhood as amazing. "I could not have had life any better," said the son of veteran toaster Big Youth and Dr Joan Porteous. "One thing for certain, they taught me and my brothers and sisters not to let anyone kill our dreams or to fall into the norm, always serve God and uplift humanity," he said.

"They spoilt me then and my father spoils me twice as much now," he added, noting that his name 'Isat' was chosen by his father because of its meaning - 'The Great One.'

Whilst practising law is equally as amazing as his childhood, he cannot forget the abundance of potholes he had to jump over. However, one of those potholes almost swallowed him alive.

"My most challenging experience thus far is my legal battle with the custos of Kingston. I was commissioned by the governor general to be a justice of the peace but my stamp and instrument were personally held by the custos, as he feels that I am not fit to help poor people, and represent the Queen in that capacity. I still do my best to assist the public at large, hoping for social change."

Before that, Buchanan was locked up in 1996 after being stopped at the Norman Manley International airport after the authorities found drug in his possession. He said a neighbour had asked him to deliver some cash to someone in the United States. He was eventually convicted and paid a fine of approximately $1 million. And in 1999, Buchanan said he was on a flight to Florida in the United States, when a quantity of drugs was found in the possession of another passenger. He said that the passenger directed authorities to him, saying that he was the person responsible. Buchanan was given a 10-year prison sentence as, according to him, authorities in the US formed the view that the incident was a continuing act from his drug case in Jamaica and that he had got off easy.

Buchanan immersed himself in legal work while serving his sentence, and following his return to Jamaica he enrolled at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, and was called to the Bar in 2017.

"Honestly, I love the law and I am passionate about helping people find justice and educating people about their human rights. It has been an amazing journey thus far. I have been blessed to be in the company of some of Jamaica's finest legal minds, and it can never hurt when you can always call Bert."

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