PORT-OF-SPAIN: The Government of Trinidad & Tobago was prepared to deal with any threats to public safety after the leader of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen group, Yasin Abu Bakr, said he was not prepared to accept security forces entering a mosque during the recently-concluded holy month of Ramadan.
Bakr, who led an unsuccessful coup against the then A.N.R. Robinson administration on July 27, 1990, said he was prepared to “respond appropriately” if the security forces continue “this transgression against us”.
The Ministry of National Security released a statement in response to Bakr’s remarks.
“While there is no evidence of any threat, all usual systems remain in place to deal with any or all threats to public safety and security. These measures are part of the nation’s upgraded defense mechanisms which remain in place on an ongoing basis,” the Ministry said in its statement.
Bakr’s comments during a radio program two weeks ago followed what he claimed was the unlawful detention of people at a mosque in Carapo, south of Port-of-Spain.
Bakr warned acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, National Security Minister Gary Griffith and Roger Alexander, head of the North Eastern Division Task Force, that “the question of coming into the mosque in Ramadan and detaining people unlawfully will not, and I repeat will not be accepted…if you continue this transgression against us, we will respond appropriately, end of talk”.
The police said they had detained 18 people for a variety of offenses, including an alleged kidnapping of Latin American tourists four months ago.
Rajaee Ali, the coordinator of the nation’s controversial LifeSport program that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has removed from the Ministry of Sport and placed under the Ministry of National Security, was among the people detained.
Last month, two of Ali’s brothers were arrested by members of the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit. Two other men affiliated with the mosque were also detained. They were later released without charge.
Ali was arrested in May soon after the murder of prominent senior counsel, Dana Seetahal, who was killed on May 4. He was released without any charges being laid against him. Police said then he was not a suspect in the murder.
At least 24 people, including one government legislator, Leo Des Vignes, were killed when Bakr led 114 members of his Muslim group in coordinated attacks on the Parliament and the Trinidad and Tobago Television station in his attempt to overthrow the then government.
After six days of negotiation, the insurgents surrendered on August 1, and were taken into custody. They were tried for treason, but the Court of Appeal upheld the amnesty offered to secure their surrender, and they were released. The London-based Privy Council, the country’s highest court, later invalidated the amnesty, but the Muslimeen members were not re-arrested.