No problem with DPP, Mendes
Elder: Seetahal must go
By FRANCIS JOSEPH
SENIOR COUNSEL Pamela Elder yesterday said there was "real and actual bias" if Dana Seetahal continues as the special prosecutor in the case brought against Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr.
Elder pointed out that Seetahal, in her role of Independent Senator and newspaper columnist, had condemned Bakr and the Jamaat. "I have shown there is not only an appearance of bias, but real and actual bias. I am taking this matter to the fullest." Bakr was before Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistratesí Court charged with sedition, incitement, and possession of arms and ammunition.
Last Friday, Elder asked Seetahal to withdraw from the case as one of the prosecutors based entirely on the things said and written about Bakr and the Jamaat. Seetahal replied that she was not withdrawing from the case. On that occasion, the lead prosecutor Douglas Mendes SC was in Barbados and the case was adjourned to yesterday.
Yesterday, Mendes turned up with Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson, who joined the prosecutionís team. Elder, leading Richard Mason, continued where she left off on Friday. She said Seetahal does not have the courage to stand up and admit that the things written were said by her. "An accused person must know that a prosecutor must be a minister of justice, not seeking to get a conviction at all costs. Miss Seetahal has continuously condemned the accused and the Jamaat al Muslimeen."
Elder continued, "I cannot believe that a prosecutor who has condemned someone can still go and prosecute. Some things are left to the conscience of a person. Courts have a duty to guard themselves from abuse."
Elder said the accused has no objection to either Mendes or Henderson prosecuting, but not Seetahal. The objection of Seetahal, she added, was based entirely on the things which the special prosecutor said about Bakr and the Jamaat. Elder said that is why persons who appear for a Commission of Inquiry cannot turn around and prosecute if there are charges. She was obviously referring to Theodore Guerra SC, who was seated at the bar table.
Mc Nicolls: "Is Mr Guerra part of your team?
Elder: No, he is considered my father-in-law.
Elder said two things were important in a prosecution ó independence and impartiality. On Friday, when the submission was first made, Seetahal responded to Elder. Yesterday, Mendes said he wanted to respond to the submission. However, he needed some time to look at the submission before he responds. He pointed out that the Chief Magistrate has no jurisdiction to entertain such a submission. Mendes will respond when hearing resumes today. Bakr, 64, was remanded in custody. He appeared in court to answer three charges of incitement and one of sedition which allegedly occurred on November 3 during Bakrís Eid sermon to his congregation at the Jamaat al Muslimeen mosque on Mucurapo Road, St James.
He also appeared on charges of possession of a high-powered sniper rifle, 565 rounds of ammunition and one hand grenade on November 9 at Mucurapo Road. Bakr was charged with two members of the Jamaat ó Tahir Ali, 19, and Olugemi Abdul Basit, 18, of Old Train Line, Cunupia.
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