Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard made a surprise appearance at the commission of enquiry into to 1990 attempted coup at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday to offer solutions to Imam Yasin Abu Bakr’s claim, sent via letter, that pre-trial publicity would be used to build a case of bad character against him in his sedition trial. The DPP, accompanied by lead prosecuting counsel Dana Seetahal SC, offered two solutions to Bakr’s claim, which was sent to the commission secretariat and the DPP on August 29. The letter sent by Bakr’s attorney, Wayne Sturge, said: “You would no doubt recall the reasons advanced for seeking a deferral of his testimony, namely that the giving of the testimony by him before the determination of his trial would likely generate adverse pre-trial publicity both from the testimony itself and from the ‘snowball’ effect of the inevitable commentary which would follow and the likelihood that others may seek to use his testimony before the commission to the detriment of the imam at his trial.”
The DPP, while stating the re-trial of Bakr’s sedition charges will continue, suggested Bakr's testimony be given in camera and also assured Bakr’s testimony would not be used to mount a case of bad character in his sedition trial. Both Bakr and his attorney, Wayne Sturge, failed to appear before the commission. Sturge sent a letter stating pre-trial publicity and Bakr’s insulin dependency, caused by his type two diabetes, as reasons why Bakr was hesitant about his testimony before the commission. The letter also said: “However, after calling all of its witnesses and immediately before closing the case for the State, lead prosecuting counsel, Dana Seetahal, successfully made an application to have intermitted, evidence of the accused’s participation in the events of 1990 and to have such evidence used as evidence of bad character, that is, to show a propensity for violence, to show his mindset and ability to control his followers and to show he is a man of no credibility.”
The commission’s chairman, Sir David Simmons, described Sturge's failure to appear before the commission as disrespectful after Sturge sent a young lawyer as his representative. Attorney Hasine Shaikh was asked to explain Sturge’s absence and to say why Bakr was absent and where he was. Shaikh could answer neither. She was reprimanded by the commission which gave her 30 minutes to contact Sturge to get him to appear before the commission. Sturge, however, still failed to show.
The State’s lead counsel, Avory Sinanan, SC, originally advised the commission that as a consequence, Sturge should be made to appear before the court within 24 hours or face a $2,000 fine. However, Simmons, after stating that Sturge also had failed to provide written testimony from his client, which had been promised to the commission months ago, said he would give Sturge 48 hours to come before the commission to answer all questions. He is expected to appear at 9.30 am tomorrow.