The Express was yesterday blocked from covering the Eid-ul-Fitr sermon of Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr.
Yesterday was three days after a retrial was ordered for Bakr, who was charged with making a statement having a seditious intention during an Eid-ul-Fitr sermon seven years ago.
Members of Bakr's security team approached the Express team at around 9.30 a.m. while Bakr was addressing his congregation at Mucurapo Road, St James. One person who identified himself as "head of security" said no media coverage of the Bakr's sermon or the Eid celebrations was allowed.
Asked if the instructions came from Bakr himself, the man said the orders came "from above". Pressed again on whether Bakr was the one who gave those instructions, he said yes.
The Express was then ushered off the compound under the watchful eyes of about three of the head of security's team.
Contacted by telephone hours later, Bakr apologised, saying there was some misunderstanding of the consensus arrived at in relation to the media.
"They (the security) didn't want anyone taping the sermon because you know what happened with that the last time," Abu Bakr said.
"We didn't want someone coming and putting a spin on what is said and somebody get lock up especially in light of the fact that I now have to face a retrial. But the media is welcome here anytime."
At the Jamaat's Mucurapo Road, St James mosque on November 4, 2005, Abu Bakr's Eid sermon focused on the collection and distribution of Zakaat (an obligatory annual payment from one's wealth similar to tithes offered by the Christian community). The sermon was recorded by CNC 3 cameraman Mano Ragbir and aired on that station's 7 p.m. newscast.
"There is going to be a big war in the Muslim community — a real war. Lives may be lost but there is going to be a war in the Muslim community, come next year, about the collection and distribution of Zakaat," Bakr was reported to have said.
In an interview on CNC3, Abu Bakr explained that he would have attempted to have several meetings with other Muslim leaders in order to arrive at a consensus on how to deal with the issue of Zakaat.
Bakr was subsequently charged with communicating a statement having a seditious intention, two counts of inciting to demand with menaces with intent to steal and endeavouring to provoke a breach of the peace. The trial before Justice Mark Mohammed in the Third Criminal Court at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain ended on Thursday with the nine-member all-female jury unable to arrive at unanimous verdicts on any of the charges.