PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Trinidad and Tobago prosecutors yesterday dropped a murder charge against the leader of an Islamic group that staged a bloody coup attempt 20 years ago.
Roger Gaspard, director of public prosecutions, said the state did not have the evidence to proceed with a murder charge against Yasin Abu Bakr and another member of the Jamaat al Muslimeen group in the 1998 slaying of a mechanic.
“After reviewing the notes of evidence… I find the chances of a successful prosecution based on the evidence to be negligible or nil,” Gaspard told The Associated Press. He declined to provide specifics.
Late last month, a judge ruled there was cause to charge Bakr and Brent Miller at the end of a year-long coroner’s inquest into the slaying of 22-year-old mechanic Ishmael Sammy, who was dragged out of his home by masked men and shot.
After the matter was dismissed, Bakr told reporters that the murder charge filed against him was a “travesty of justice”.
“The police concocted this story and I want the police commissioner to investigate this matter,” Bakr said outside the magistrate’s court in Port-of-Spain.
The commissioner could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bakr, a former police officer who converted to Islam in the 1970s, has been charged with various crimes over the years but never convicted.
Earlier this year, US authorities claimed that four men accused of planning to attack John F Kennedy International Airport had sought support from Jamaat al Muslimeen, headed by Bakr. US court documents in the case say the men did not get the support, but that one suspect met with Bakr at his Trinidad compound and the Islamic leader suggested that he return with others involved “to discuss the plan in detail”.
Bakr later told the AP he knew nothing about the plot to bomb a fuel pipeline feeding the airport, and didn’t know the men.
Jamaat al Muslimeen group has faded as a political force in Trinidad and Tobago, although its members have been accused of participating in shootings, kidnappings and bank robberies.
On July 27, 1990, Bakr and 114 rebels set off a car bomb that gutted the police station in front of Parliament. They then stormed into the legislature, spraying bullets, and took the prime minister and his Cabinet hostage in a rebellion that killed 24 people. They surrendered six days later after the government gave them amnesty.