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State’s main witness Mano Ragbir: Bakr meant ‘fight for the poor’
After several hours of questioning by state and defence attorneys, the State’s main witness in the sedition trial against Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr, cameraman Anand “Mano” Ragbir yesterday completed his testimony in the trial. During yesterday’s short hearing before Justice Mark Mohammed, Ragbir was questioned by Bakr’s attorney Wayne Sturge about statements the imam made during his 2005 Eid-ul-Fitr sermon.
He agreed with Sturge that when Bakr spoke of “fighting” and “war,” he (Bakr) was referring to a “fight for the poor and impoverished” and not a physical confrontation. Ragbir, who told the court he had difficulty in remembering the entire speech, referred to a written transcript at times to answer Sturge’s questions.
Bakr’s speech, which was shown to the nine-member jury on Tuesday, centred on the principle of zakat, which is sometimes described as the third pillar of Islam. In his sermon to about 300 of his followers, Bakr explained that zakat meant Muslims giving two and a half per cent of their wealth to charity.
In his hour-long sermon, Bakr instructed his followers to collect the zakat from fellow Muslims in order to help poor and young Muslims. Ragbir, the head cameraman with television station CNC 3, was the only member of the media present during Bakr’s controversial sermon, which he delivered at the Jamaat’s Mucurapo Road, St James mosque on November 5, 2005.
Bakr, 70, of La Puerta Road, Diego Martin, is facing four criminal charges over his sermon: communicating a statement with seditious intent; endeavouring to provoke a breach of the peace and two charges of inciting others to demand money by menace.
Yesterday’s hearing ended earlier than expected to allow Bakr and his large entourage, who have attended each hearing of the case thus far, to attend Juma (Friday congregational prayer) at the mosque. The trial is expected to continue next Wednesday, when deputy Head of News at CNC 3 Sampson Nanton is expected to testify.
Although not present at the time of the sermon, Nanton was the reporter who produced the television report that sparked police interest. Also expected to testify next week is former Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) president Bro Noble Khan, who was directly referred to in Bakr’s sermon.
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