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Yasin Abu Bakr

Derek Achong

Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr has sought to reveal the reasons for his organisation leading the 1990 attempted coup.

Bakr made the revelation in an affidavit attached to an application to have a charge for refusing to testify before the Commission of Enquiry appointed to investigate the now-infamous event stayed.

Stating that he felt the explanation necessary at “this time”, Bakr said: “I also believe this exercise shall only help to heal the nation and foster national consensus as it relates to the criminal justice system and/or other identified forms of systematic failures of investigations into extra-legal summary and/or arbitrary police killings of citizens of T&T.”

In the document, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Bakr said in 1987 he and other high ranking members of his organisation were approached by a police officer identified as WPC Bernadette James, who complained of being fearful for her life.

Bakr claimed that James, who was then assigned to a narcotics team based at the Piarco International Airport, told them that she witnessed senior government ministers engaged in a drug deal at the VIP lounge of the airport.

He claimed that James said she reported the incident to the Office of the Commissioner of Police but was told to remain silent.

“Four days after my meeting with WPC James, one of her close colleagues in the Special Branch of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) told her persons were preparing to kill her because she was seeking justice,” Bakr said.

He claimed that later that year, James was fatally wounded in what was described as an accident during a TTPS training exercise in Chaguaramas.

Stating that he began having sleepless nights due to the information James reveal before her death, Bakr said he and his followers resolved to raise awareness on the issue.

Bakr claimed that when they began having public rallies to do so, police officers and members of the Defence Force began to unlawfully occupy their Mucurapo Road compound.

Bakr claimed that he and his followers continued their protest action and even gave information to a United States Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) officer, who was based in Trinidad.

Bakr, who served as a police officer for almost 10 years, claimed that after some information he provided led to a drug bust at the Point Lisas Port, he received a tip-off that the State had planned to invade his organisation’s compound and demolish it.

“The members of the Jamaat hastily made some preparations to combat the plans of the State to destroy our lives and property and within two weeks I lead the Coup d’etat and arrested the government and the ministers involved for the murder of WPC Bernadette James, and for their involvement in the drug trade,” Bakr said.

In his evidence, Bakr claimed 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 upcoming sedition trial, which eventually ended in a hung jury and a retrial being ordered.

“If my ongoing trial for sedition was prejudiced, the penalty would have been graver than not attending the commission,” Abu 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 challenged the commission’s haste to have the case go to trial in August, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for next week.

“Is it a public spectacle the powers that be wished to have with me going to court in this COVID-19 season, that just happens to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1990 Coup?” he said.

Bakr noted 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.

Through the lawsuit, Bakr is seeking a series of declarations that the prosecution of the charge is irrational, unlawful, and legal.

The case is scheduled to come up for hearing this afternoon when a judge will decide whether to grant him leave to pursue the claim.

Bakr is being represented by Criston J Williams and Jerome Riley.