Judge blanks Bakr again:
TT not Libya, Iran
By Francis Joseph, newsday.co.tt
HIGH COURT Judge Herbert Volney made it quite clear yesterday that Trinidad and Tobago is different to Libya and Iran. He said the statements made by Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr at the Eid celebrations at his Mucurapo mosque on November 4, would be appropriate for Libya and Iran, not Trinidad and Tobago.
Volney’s comments were made as lawyers for the jailed Muslimeen leader made yet another application for bail for him on charges of sedition, incitement, and terrorism arising out of the sermon delivered by him at his mosque. But after more than two hours of submissions, Volney, presiding in the Port-of-Spain First Criminal Court, dismissed the bail application and remanded Bakr into custody pending the hearing and determination of the charges before Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls.
However, Volney asked the State to pursue the preliminary inquiry with despatch so the Chief Magistrate can decide if there is enough evidence for a committal. Four witnesses have so far testified for the prosecution at the inquiry. Two more are expected to give evidence before the inquiry comes to an end. Yesterday’s bail application was the second before Volney. Bakr’s legal team comprised Theodore Guerra SC, Pamela Elder SC, Owen Hinds Jr, and Richard Clarke-Wills. Douglas Mendes SC and Dana Seetahal represented the State.
But it was Elder who made the application. On the last occasion, the defence presented Volney with a copy of the tape of the sermon. When the matter resumed yesterday, Volney stated that he had seen the tape of the sermon. "What is the change in circumstances?" Volney asked Elder. (The only way Bakr could make a second application for bail was if the circumstances had changed.) Elder insisted that the circumstances had changed, but Volney interjected, "I see nothing in the tape which I viewed, could add anything submitted by Mr Guerra. I viewed the tape twice. I don’t see how the tape could assist your application for a bail hearing."
Volney continued, "I now fully understand the context of the text of the sermon. The sermon was given in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with the Republican Constitution as the issue, and not in the Islamic Republic of Iran or some other ‘shariah’ country."
That did not stop Elder, however. She said an accused person was entitled to renew his application for bail once he can show there has been a change in circumstances. She said since the first application, attorneys were now in a better position to assess the strength of the prosecution’s case. That alone, she added, amounted to a change in circumstances.
Quoting a legal authority from England, Elder stated that the change of circumstances must be shown at the third application for bail, and not the second as is the norm in this country. She said despite Bakr’s involvement in the 1990 attempted coup, he still had the right to be heard. Volney was not impressed, saying this was Elder’s final bite at the cherry. He said he was now better able to appreciate the facts after viewing the tape.
Elder said she was not suggesting that there was no evidence at all. She was speaking about the strength of the evidence which had so far led to a denial of her client’s liberty.
The Zakaat issue in the sermon was raised. Volney asked, "How were they to collect the Zakaat? Go and kidnap somebody’s daughter to get it?" All the chanting of Allah U Ackbar. Who was he talking to? They were ordinary, simple people at the Jamaat. He was telling his followers to go and get back what was taken from them. That area of the sermon struck me, to go and take it back. That the rich Muslims are not paying Zakaat."
He continued, "This is a country where persons are entitled to their wealth, according to law. That collecting Zakaat may be right in a Koranic State, but not in a country like ours. There lies the problem of his words, ‘if you are not getting the Zakaat, go get it from them.’"
Elder stated there was nothing on the tape that attracted criminal culpability.
Volney added, "If this sermon was given in Libya or Iran, it would be most appropriate. But trying to tie down that on this country, it is not right." Elder responded, "If it was someone else who said it, it would not have been a problem. The accused is being condemned because of the manifestation of his religious beliefs."
In his reply, Mendes said Bakr went beyond the normal sermon. He said Bakr placed a lot of emphasis on the payment of the Zakaat. "Viewing of the speech has only made it worse for the accused. Before we had excerpts, now we have the full text," Mendes said.
At the end of the session, Volney dismissed the application and remanded Bakr into custody. Hearing of the preliminary inquiry resumes tomorrow.
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