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Jury in Bakr sedition trial sequestered
The jury in the sedition trial of Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr has been sequestered. The decision to sequester the jury, for a little over a week, was made yesterday afternoon by Justice Mark Mohammed, who is presiding in the trial. Mohammed told the jury that the decision was in his discretion as trial judge, and was not spurred by any action on the part of Bakr or the prosecution.
He repeatedly advised them not to hold the decision against Bakr when they were arriving at their verdict. After Mohammed’s announcement, the jurors were escorted to their homes by a group of marshals to collect their personal belongings. One of the jurors told Mohammed the sequestration would be inconvenient for her. She was eventually discharged and replaced by an alternate juror.
The jurors were then taken to an unidentified hotel in Port-of-Spain, where they will stay until next week Friday, when the trial is scheduled to end. Mohammed explained to the jurors that their communication with relatives would be limited during this period. They are also expected to be prevented from reading newspapers and watching television. The jurors will also be guarded by a team of specialist police officers.
The nine-member jury and five alternates will return to court next Monday, when Mohammed is expected to begin presenting his summation of the case to them, after which they will deliberate on it. During yesterday’s sitting of the trial, special state prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, addressed the jury on issues that the prosecution is relying on in the case.
In her two-hour address, Seetahal identified several sections of Bakr’s controversial 2005 Eid-ul-Fitr sermon which she claimed proved the four criminal charges against him. The charges are communicating a statement with a seditious intent, endeavouring to provoke a breach of the peace and two charges of inciting others to demand money by menace.
Seetahal also contradicted claims made by Bakr’s attorney Wayne Sturge, in his closing address, that contentious parts of Bakr’s sermon had their origins in the Qu’ran. In presenting his address last week, Sturge appealed to the jurors to acquit his client. “You cannot convict a man for saying what his God has said,” Sturge said. The trial will continue on Monday after legal arguments are concluded this week.
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