Under fire: Attorney Wayne Sturge, centre, one of the lawyers for Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the 1990 coup atempt, arrives yesterday at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on Henry Street, Port of Spain, where the Commission of Enquiry into the attempted coup is being held.
—Photo: ISHMAEL SLANDY
DPP to decide how to deal with Bakr
Jamaat leader continues to defy subpoena
Ria Taitt Political Editor
THE Director of Public Prosecutions will now have to deal with Yasin Abu Bakr.
Bakr yesterday signalled his intention to continue to defy the subpoena issued by the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt mandating him to appear before it to give evidence into the coup attempt, which he led.
He is not prepared to testify until the sedition trial he is facing in another matter is over.
As a consequence, Commission chairman Sir David Simmons, acting on Section 16 of the Commission of Enquiry Act, referred the matter to the DPP “for such action as he may consider appropriate”.
If charged and convicted Bakr faces a $2,000 fine.
In a reproachful letter, dated September 4 and read to the Commission yesterday, Bakr attacked from all sides, seeking to implicate everybody as he trained his guns on Gaspard, Simmons, Commission counsel Avory Sinanan and Jagdeo Singh, former prime ministers Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday, and former national security minister Herbert Atwell.
Bakr said he placed no faith in any undertaking given by Gaspard (or any State official).
Gaspard had given a written undertaking that nothing said by Bakr at the Enquiry would be used against him in his subsequent trial for sedition, in an effort to assist the Commission in getting Bakr to give testimony.
But Bakr said, via his letter, that he put no store on anything said by agents of the State and cited a record of broken promises made to him by Government officials, including two prime ministers, over the past 23 years.
“With that track record, do you really expect me to believe anything coming from the mouth of a State official whose purpose is to imprison me for my religious beliefs?” Bakr asked, adding: “Only a child would believe that.”
Included in those issues that the State had reneged on was the assurance given with the amnesty in 1990 that members of the Jamaat would not be prosecuted; the assurance given by two sitting prime ministers that the State would not enforce the civil judgment against him; and an assurance given by a sitting prime minister that the lands at Mucurapo would be regularised (given to the Jamaat).
Bakr said he was being prosecuted for delivering a sermon “which had support in the Holy Quran and the Haddiths...That prosecution is malicious and a shamefaced attempt to punish me for 1990 after the failed attempt to do so”.
Bakr made the “humble suggestion” that “whilst Messrs Manning and Panday are still alive, it might be helpful to ask them both how they knew to be absent (from the Parliament) on July 27, 1990 (at the time of the storming of the Parliament chamber).
“And. May I also suggest that you enquire of former government minister Herbert Atwell whilst he is still alive, details of his short-lived interaction with deceased woman Police Constable Bernadette James, and to enquire of him whether he could be of any help in telling her story.”
In his letter, Bakr also upbraided the chairman, saying that he wished to place on record his “absolute horror and disgust” with the treatment given to attorney Hasine Shaikh on Monday.
“I feel it necessary to tell you that you cannot expect respect from young people if you rejoice in treating them with the kind of disrespect you have shown to both Ms Shaikh and Mr Sturge. Whether you choose to show humility and apologise to both lawyers is a matter for you and your Lord,” Bakr stated.
However, Bakr said that when the time comes for him to testify at the Enquiry (after the sedition trial is disposed of), he wants the Commission to pay for a lawyer of his choice as “I have no faith in either Mr Singh or Mr Sinanan”.
“I know nothing of Mr Sinanan and I have read enough about Mr Singh to know that I will never hire him. It would also be helpful if transcripts of the evidence taken so far be made available so that I can address all issues raised,” Bakr stated.
But while Bakr’s letter was full of opinion, questions and innuendo, he was not moved by the “summons for my attendance before your Commission and the accompanying threat of the peril that awaits me for my failure to attend”.
“I would like at the outset to reaffirm my willingness to testify... However, I wish to make the following clear: I have no intention of answering any questions at the Enquiry until I am discharged of the matters before the High Court.”.
Bakr rebuked the Commission for not staying its proceedings and for proceeding to take evidence before his (sedition) trial began, which was detrimental to him.
“If that was not bad enough, during my trial (there was evidence being taken by the Commission) with sensational publicity which could only have served to prejudice me at the time when the jurors were not sequestered. That situation makes me suspicious that you may be much more interested in pursuing your own legitimate agenda and without regard to my right to a fair trial,” he said.
The Commission’s hearings have been adjourned to October 15. Attorney Wayne Sturge told the Commission that it was unlikely that Bakr’s sedition case would be completed by January 2013. This would make it difficult for the Commission to accommodate any testimony from him in time for its proposed March 2013 deadline for hearing evidence and presenting its report.