Online comments suspended during Bakr sedition trial
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday June 08, 2012 – The editors-in-chief of two Trinidad newspapers have assured the High Court that they will move to prevent any prejudicial statements from being aired during the upcoming trial of Muslim leader Yasin Abu Bakr.
Accordingly, comments by readers of the online editions of the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express will not be posted on reports of the sedition trial of Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Bakr, who is charged with promoting a terrorist act following comments he made in a 2005 sermon.
The agreement was reached at a meeting between Justice Mark Mohammed and the two editors-in-chief at the Port-of-Spain Third Criminal Court. The Guardian’s Judy Raymond and the Express’s Omatie Lyder represented their respective publications.
The issue of the online comment section of the newspapers’ Websites was first raised last week by Bakr’s defence attorney Wayne Sturge. During the pre-trial jury-selection process, Sturge noted that the comments posted by readers might prejudice the trial’s jurors.
Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson appeared for the Trinidad Guardian, while attorney Farees Hosein represented the Trinidad Express.
Bakr is before the court on four charges: Communicating a statement with seditious intention, endeavouring to provoke a breach of the peace, and two charges of inciting others to demand money by menace.
During the hearing, Mohammed and Sturge interviewed several potential jurors about their educational backgrounds and opinions on the 70-year-old Bakr and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen.
An all-female nine-member jury with three alternates has already been chosen to sit at the trial. Three more alternate jurors are expected to be selected and sworn in by today, Friday, with the State expected to open the case next week.
Special prosecutor Dana Seetahal, SC, and Renuka Rambhajan are prosecuting the matter, which has been delayed repeatedly due to Bakr’s ill health.