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Prosecution presents bad character evidence on Bakr
Details of Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr’s involvement in the 1990 attempted coup were yesterday presented to the nine-member jury sitting in on his ongoing sedition trial. The evidence, presented in the form of a short narrative, is part of the State’s bad-character evidence against Bakr.
After presenting the information to the jury Justice Mark Mohammed, presiding over the trial, said state prosecutors were relying on the evidence to show three issues that underpin their case against him. Mohammed said the State contended that because of his role in the coup attempt, Bakr had the propensity or tendency to engage in insurrection-type acts.
Mohammed explained that after the events of July 27, 1990, Bakr was charged with treason, false imprisonment and possession of firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Mohammed said the legal definitions of treason and sedition were closely linked, with both offences being related to forceful opposition to lawful authority.
He also noted that the evidence was presented by the State in an attempt to show Bakr’s state of mind at the time of his controversial 2005 Eid-ul-Fitr sermon. Bakr, through his attorneys, has agreed to testify at the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup, upon completion of the trial, which is expected to end by mid-August.
Besides sedition, Bakr, 70, of La Puerta Avenue, Diego Martin, is facing charges of endeavouring to provoke a breach of the peace and two charges of inciting others to demand money by menace. All four charges against Bakr stem from a speech delivered to about 200 of his supporters at the Jamaat’s Mucurapo Road, St James mosque. The speech centred on zakaat, the Islamic principle requiring Muslims to give to the poor.
Mohammed said the new evidence would help the jury determine Bakr’s credibility in accusing witnesses of lying, especially in the testimony of former Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) president Bro Noble Khan. “The defence are alleging that Khan is not telling the truth and that he was a pawn in a conspiracy by senior government officials in 2005 against Bakr,” Mohammed said.
He said the evidence of the insurrection would also help jurors determine if Bakr’s conspiracy defence was credible. Mohammed warned the jurors not to make pronouncements on the case until he had explained the legal principles in his summation to them. “The purpose of this evidence is not to generate prejudice against Bakr,” Mohammed said.
Khan ended his testimony yesterday after being cross-examined by Bakr’s defence attorney Wayne Sturge for six days. Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal and State attorney Renuka Rambhajan are prosecuting. The trial continues today.
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