PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 8, CMC – Yasin Abu Bakr, the man who led a radical Muslim group in an unsuccessful attempt at overthrowing the Trinidad and Tobago government in 1990, is likely to appear before a Commission of Inquiry probing the event in August, one of his attorneys said Wednesday.
Attorney Viveka Pargass told the five-member Commission chaired by prominent Barbadian jurist, Sir David Simmons, that the health of her client was improving and he is also due to appear in the High Court on May 14 on criminal charges related to another matter.
She told the Commission that Bakr, 67, would most likely be available after the trial which is expected to last between six and eight weeks.
“The final case management conference before Justice Mohammed took place on Monday the 7th of May 2012, when it was confirmed that Mr. Bakr is in sufficient physical fitness to stand trial and it was confirmed by his Lordship Justice Mohammed that the trial will in fact start on the 14th of May,” she added.
Bakr faces charges of promoting a terrorist act, sedition and four other offences arising out of comments he made during an Eid-ul-Fitr sermon in November 2005. The trial has never really started because of his illness.
Last month, the Commission ordered the Commission’s lead counsel, Avory Sinanan, SC, to write Bakr giving him a 14-day deadline to make an appearance before the commission.
Sinanan had already informed the Commission that Bakr, who has in the past publicly indicated a willingness to testify before any commission, had been written to on three occasions, but is yet to respond indicating when he would be available.
At least 24 people, including one legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed after Bakr led more than 100 men in the failed attempt at overthrowing the government on July 27, 1990.
Bakr and the members of his Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen group were tried for treason following the six day insurrection, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released.
However, The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.
The 24 month-old Kamla Persad Bissessar led People’s Partnership coalition established the Commission after acknowledging that for several years calls have been made “by a generous percentage of our population for such an investigation”.
Sir David said that Bakr will now have to prepare a witness statement no later than June.
“His trial as of today is slated to begin on Monday and once that happens, I think it would be unreasonable and perhaps improper or irregular for us to seek to have Mr. Bakr come here while he is on trial before a judge and jury on some criminal charges.
“We are not going to make any exception of Mr. Bakr in respect of providing a witness statement. All other witnesses have provided witness statements to the Commission,” Sir David said, noting that Bakr has now had “more than a year to provide that witness statement.
“I will remind you that we need the witness statement. Since his health has improved it seems to me that over the period of time, counsel can meet with Mr. Bakr and assist in the preparation of that witness statement,” Sir David added.