Muslimeen leader stays in jail
By FRANCIS JOSEPH
YASIN ABU BAKR, leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, was yesterday committed to stand trial at the Port-of-Spain Assizes on five charges of terrorism, sedition and incitement allegedly committed during his Eid sermon at his Mucurapo Road premises on November 4 last year.
Added to that, Bakr is to remain in prison pending the hearing and determination of these charges. Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls, presiding in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates’ Court, turned down yet another request by the defence to release the Jamaat leader on bail.
Mc Nicolls refused bail on four grounds. He said if Bakr is released, he is likely to abscond and not submit himself to trial; there is a likelihood that he would commit other offences while on bail; the seriousness of the offences; and the strength of the prosecution’s case.
Bakr, 64, stood still in the dock when the committal order was made. He broke into a smile when he turned towards the media table. But three of his wives and other Muslimeen members sat at the back of the court with serious faces.
The day started when Theodore Guerra SC, the leader of the defence team, made a submission in which he asked Mc Nicolls to discharge his client. Guerra argued that no indictable case was made out against Bakr, and based on the entire evidence at the inquiry, no prima facie case was disclosed.
Guerra quoted the Constitution and said Bakr was entitled to his religious beliefs. He said Bakr should not be discriminated against. "He has the right, like all other religions in Trinidad and Tobago, to have a freedom of conscience. His speech at the Eid celebrations came at the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. This was the breaking of the fast. As a leader of the Muslim religion, he addressed his congregation."
Guerra continued, "this prosecution is a reminder of Martin Luther, the priest who challenged Rome and, for his beliefs that the Roman Catholic Church was not doing the proper thing, he was persecuted. The accused here said that one of the fundamental pillars of Islam was not observed. He said no arrangements had been put in place for the collection of zakaat. He said he was going to attack the Muslim community. That doesn’t mean he was going to attack the Muslims physically."
Guerra said all that Bakr was doing at the Eid celebrations on November 4, 2005, at Mucurapo was telling his delinquent Muslim brothers to return to the faith. He said there was nothing in the sermon calling on the Muslims to take people’s property unlawfully.
Douglas Mendes SC, the lead prosecutor, told the court that a prima facie case had been made out against Bakr and that he should be committed to stand trial. He disputed Guerra’s submissions, saying that while Bakr was expressing his religious belief, he went further and was speaking violence. "He spoke of war and that lives would be lost and that property would be taken. The accused was talking about a real war, violence. He was advocating the issue of violence by taking zakaat by force if they did not part with it voluntarily. How could you bring Muslims together when you encourage violence among Muslims?"
Mc Nicolls said he was satisfied that a prima facie case had been established. He then committed Bakr to stand trial at the next sitting of the Port-of-Spain Assizes. It was then that Pamela Elder SC pleaded for bail for Bakr. She quoted a recent Privy Council case from Mauritius which dealt with the question of bail. She said everyone knew that Bakr was responsible for the 1990 attempted coup. She said the Jamaat leader was not convicted of any offences since then.
Elder said Bakr has a case pending against him where he was charged with conspiring to kill two persons. She pointed out that this was a more serious charge, yet Bakr was released on bail.
"There was never any allegation that he interfered with any witnesses, or he attempted to flee. The accused showed his willingness at all times to submit to the court. The whole nation knew what happened in that trial. Is this accused a flight risk?" she asked.
Mendes objected to bail saying that Bakr was likely to abscond because the sentence for committing terrorism was 25 years in prison. Mc Nicolls agreed and refused to grant Bakr bail.
Bakr will be back in court on Tuesday as Mc Nicolls plans to start another inquiry in which the Jamaat leader and two members of the Muslimeen are charged with possession of a high-powered rifle and more than 500 rounds of ammunition allegedly seized at the Mucurapo premises on November 7, 2005.
YASIN ABU BAKR aka LENNOX PHILLIP, of La Puerta Road, Diego Martin, on Friday November 4, 2005, at Mucurapo Road, St James, unlawfully incited persons present at the Eid celebrations in the Mucurapo Mosque to commit a breach of the peace by enforcing the collection of zakaat against members of the Muslim community who are not members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen.
Unlawfully incited persons present at the Eid celebrations in the Mucurapo Mosque to demand with menaces or by force, property of (Senator) Noble Khan with intent to steal the same.
Unlawfully incited persons present at the Eid celebrations in the Mucurapo Mosque to demand with menaces or by force property of members of the Muslim community who are not members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen.
In the presence and hearing of persons at the Eid celebrations in the Mucurapo Mosque uttered a seditious speech the purport of which was to engender and promote in his listeners feelings of ill-will or hostility between members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen on the one hand and other members of the Muslim community who are not members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen on the other hand.
On November 4, 2005, at Mucurapo Road, did knowingly promote the commission of a terrorist act likely to cause the loss of life or serious bodily harm, to wit, a war in which lives may be lost, intended to intimidate a section of the public, to wit, members of the Muslim community who are not members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, for the purpose of advancing a religious or ideological cause, contrary to section 14 of the Anti-Terrorism Act No 26 of 2005.
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