Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr’s case for allegedly refusing to testify before the Commission of Enquiry appointed to investigate the 1990 attempted coup is expected to start on August 17.
The date was set by Magistrate Sarah De Silva during a hearing yesterday, which came hours after a separate hearing of a recent lawsuit brought by Bakr in an attempt to permanently stay the criminal charge.
During the first hearing before Justice Nadia Kangaloo, Bakr’s lawyer Criston J Williams applied to amend the case as he claimed that he was awaiting information from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, which was sought under the Freedom of Information Act.
Williams attempted to pursue an application for a temporary stay of the proceedings before De Silva, pending the determination of the case before Kangaloo.
However, Kangaloo suggested that the issue be raised after De Silva made a decision on whether the case should proceed to trial.
As the case before Kangaloo is scheduled to come up for hearing a day after the trial is due to start, Bakr may now have to apply for an earlier hearing to make the application for a temporary stay.
In the case before Kangaloo, Bakr is claiming that the reason he decided not to answer the summons to appear before the commission in 2012 was that he believed that it may have prejudiced his sedition trial, which began shortly after. The trial eventually ended in a hung jury and a retrial was ordered.
“If my ongoing trial for sedition was prejudiced, the penalty would have been graver than not attending the commission,” Bakr said, as he noted that the maximum penalty for the offence he is seeking to have stayed is $2,000.
Bakr also questioned why the commission pursued the charges when the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) initially decided against pursuing the charges.
Bakr claimed that he has difficulties in paying his legal costs for defending the charge as the case was almost complete before former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar but had to be restarted after she took up a judicial appointment. He contends that he cannot afford a lawyer to defend him on the criminal charge as he still owes money for the unfinished case before Ayers-Caesar.
Through the lawsuit, Bakr is seeking a series of declarations that the prosecution of the charge is irrational, unlawful, and legal.
In his affidavit in the case, Bakr sought to reveal the reasons for his organisation leading the 1990 attempted coup.
Bakr claimed that his organisation was reacting to pressure from the State which it received after it began advocating against State officials, who were allegedly involved in the drug trade.
The commission is being represented by Israel Khan, SC, Larry Lalla and Michael Rooplal.