Let Bakr testify in secret
PORT OF SPAIN — In an unusual development, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard made an appearance before the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt yesterday.
And in seeking to assist the Commission to get coup leader Yasin Abu Bakr to testify, Gaspard gave an undertaking that nothing Abu Bakr says in the coup enquiry would be used against him in the current prosecution of sedition and other charges against him.
However, the DPP also suggested to the Commission that it hears Bakr’s evidence in camera.
But Gaspard stressed he had no intention of dropping the sedition and other charges.
Gaspard’s presence at the Commission was occasioned by a letter to him from the secretary of the Commission which referred to a letter sent by Bakr’s attorney, Wayne Sturge, to the Commission.
Sturge’s letter, dated August 30, indicated that Bakr could not testify unless and until the resolution of his trial for sedition. (Sturge’s letter was written one day after Bakr was subpoenaed to appear before the Commission.)
In his letter, Sturge pointed to three issues: a) adverse pre-trial publicity; b) to the likelihood that others may seek to use his testimony before the Commission to the detriment of the imam at this sedition trial; and c) to Bakr’s health.
Sturge’s letter, which was read out at yesterday’s sitting of the Commission by lead counsel Avory Sinanan, said that while Bakr was desirous of giving a full account of his participation in the 1990 insurrection, it was “very likely that such evidence given by him can and will be used against him at the new trial (for sedition)”.
Gaspard said he understood the anxieties expressed in Sturge’s letter, as they pertain to the issue of pre-trial publicity and to the prospect of any evidence given being used in Bakr’s retrial for sedition and other charges.
He said Sturge obliquely suggested that the DPP may be minded to discontinue the proceedings against Bakr for sedition and other charges. “At this very early juncture, might I apprise the Commission that I have no intention of discontinuing those charges which would form the subject matter of Mr Bakr’s retrial,” said Gaspard.
The DPP said on the issue of evidence being used by the prosecution at Bakr’s retrial, Sturge’s anxieties could be allayed by his (Gaspard) giving an undertaking or by his signalling his intention to agree that any evidence given by Bakr in these proceedings only (i.e. the Commission of Enquiry) would not be used by the prosecution (in the sedition trial) to mount any application to lead bad-character evidence against Bakr.
In response to a question from Commission chairman Sir David Simmons, Gaspard confirmed he was prepared to give this undertaking in writing.
Such a letter would be delivered both to the Commission and to Sturge, Gaspard assured.
“Excellent,” replied Simmons, adding: “Thank you so much.” (Express)