Lawyer: Sickness may make evidence unreliable
Leader of the 1990 coup attempt, Yasin Abu Bakr, “cannot be relied upon to give evidence in a coherent and reliable manner” after extended periods because of his “uncontrolled diabetic condition”.
So stated Bakr’s attorney Wayne Sturge in a letter, dated August 29, which sought to explain why Bakr could not testify at the Commission of Enquiry into the July 27, 1990 coup attempt.
Sturge said Bakr’s medical condition was a significant factor in the decision to have him (Bakr) remain silent (in the recent trial for sedition and other charges) and not be subjected to cross-examination.
Bakr’s trial for sedition and other offences arose out of a sermon given on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr 2005. This trial, which was recently concluded, ended in a mistrial and a new trial has been ordered.
Sturge said it was likely that evidence given at the Commission would be used against Bakr at this new trial. He pointed out that lead prosecuting counsel (Dana Seetahal SC, who was present at yesterday’s sitting of the Commission) successfully made an application to have intromitted evidence of Bakr’s participation in the events of 1990 and to have such evidence used to show bad character, a propensity for violence, his mindset and ability to control his followers, and to illustrate that he is a man of no credibility.
Sturge said Bakr’s counsel’s views were further concretised upon the fact that hundreds of jurors were questioned in the jury selection process and a great majority of them indicated an inability to divorce from their minds the events of 1990 and to give the imam a fair trial.
“In addition to the attendant adverse pre-trial publicity which would be generated (by his testimony), Counsel for the State at the retrial would no doubt have at her disposal an abundance of material to buttress her bad-character application and to further cross-examine the imam to his detriment should he (in the unlikely event) choose to testify at the retrial,” Sturge stated.
Sturge stated that he had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking whether it was in the public interest to continue the prosecution against Bakr for the things allegedly said by him during the Eid sermon in 2005.
Sturge concluded his letter by indicating: “The imam wishes to indicate that he means no disrespect to the Commission and whilst he is willing to attend, unless and until there is a final resolution of his trial, either by verdict or by the filing of a notice of discontinuance by the DPP, the imam, in order to ensure for himself a fair trial, will be unable to answer any questions posed to him at this enquiry”.
The Commission adjourned till tomorrow when Sturge is due to appear to explain Bakr’s non-appearance yesterday in the face of a subpoena as well as his (Sturge’s) own absence.