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Bakr sends message to PM: Don’t call my name, or...

Thursday, October 4, 2007
  • Wants PM to watch his contents
  • Challenging constitutionality of Anti-Terrorism law

JAMAAT al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr has issued a veiled threat to tell of his involvement with the ruling PNM, if the party’s political leader, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, does not refrain from making comments about him on the election platform.

Bakr’s consternation over recent comments by PM Manning about him was raised when he reappeared in court to answer charges of terrorism, incitement and sedition.

That trial is yet to begin as another preliminary legal issue has been raised for presiding judge Justice Mark Mohammed to consider.

In June, the judge allowed a three-month cooling-off period to determine whether adverse media reports have tapered off enough to ensure Bakr gets a fair trial.

But yesterday, attorney Wayne Sturge, one of Bakr’s lawyers, raised concern about recent statements made by Manning on the political platform, saying it might have an effect on the minds of potential jurors.

Sturge accused the PM of alienating Bakr and said references of Bakr’s associations and allegations of criminal conduct were likely to have a negative impact on a fair trial.

“It is gaining momentum and he (Bakr) is prepared to open up but it will cause great embarrassment to the Prime Minister,” Sturge said, while admitting that his client knew it would “only make things worse” if he spoke out.

Sturge has asked that the State and the judge issue a warning to the PM and other politicians to refrain from making comments about Bakr.


Seetahal: It’s grossly exaggerated


But lead prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, said it was a grossly exaggerated concern of Bakr since he had previously spoken about the assistance he lent in previous election campaigns and had never denied being the leader of the1990 insurrection.

“The events of 1990 have been documented in this country’s history...And far be it for me to warn the Prime Minister on matters of that kind,” Seetahal said.

Not the Court’s business

Justice Mohammed while agreeing that it was not the business of the courts to fetter what a political party chose to comment on, particularly the 1990 coup attempt, there was a need to “exercise caution and restraint” because of Bakr’s pending trial.

“The 1990 coup attempt was an integral part of the nation’s history and discussions on it are inevitable and unavoidable,” the judge said, adding that such debates, discussions and perhaps speculation on the coup will continue the next 100 years.

“If any political party chooses to make (comments on) the 1990 coup and attendant circumstances, there is hardly anything the court can do. It is clearly not the business of the court,” he said.

Bakr is now challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism legislation under which he was charged.

Justice Mohammed will on October 29 rule on whether he has the authority to consider the constitutional issue as a preliminary issue or if it should be sent to the Civil courts to decide.

Bakr’s lawyers have argued that there was nothing preventing the criminal court judge from determining the point.

Gerald Ramdeen, who also represents Bakr warned that for Bakr to file an originating motion seeking constitutional relief might only serve to open the floodgates to others to do the same and open the Iman up to charges of abuse by the State.

But Seetahal said the magnitude of striking down an Act of Parliament should not be taken as a preliminary point in a criminal trial but new proceedings should be launched.

“To strike down the entire Act cannot be part of the criminal proceedings,” she said.

She also pointed to the separate role of the DPP in criminal cases and the possible problems caused by having to bring in the Attorney General in constitutional proceedings.


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