Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the radical Muslim organization Jamaat al Muslimeen and the 113 insurrectionists who staged the attempted July 1990 coup in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be prosecuted anymore for serious offences committed during the event.
Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry Barbadian jurist Sir David Simmons made this statement when the inquiry started recently in Port of Spain. The inquiry was set up by the People’s Partnership government to probe the attempted coup.
Sir David said that the commission was mandated to inquire into the criminal acts in connection with the coup, identify any persons involved and make recommendations in respect of the prosecution of such events.
He said, however, that their “ability to fully comply with those mandates may be limited by the operation of the law.”
“It’s a matter of legal record that some persons who were involved in the coup d’etat were previously prosecuted for a variety of offences.
“Their cases were heard in the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago and finally determined in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
“The Privy Council held that the amnesty granted to the Muslimeen by the then government was invalid, but the Privy Council said after the habeas corpus was made it would be an abuse of process to seek once more to prosecute the Muslimeen for the serious offences committed during the insurrection,” Sir David said.
“We cannot reverse the advice of the Privy Council,” he added.
Sir David noted, though, that the commission was empowered to identify and, if necessary, recommend the prosecution of other persons outside the Privy Council’s ruling who may have been involved in criminal conduct during the attempted coup.
Among the witnesses to give evidence so far was former Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson, who was shot by members of the Muslimeen when they stormed the parliament and held him and several MPs hostage.
Robinson was the political leader of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) party, which had formed a coalition government with the United Labor Front led by former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.
The inquiry is continuing.