Jamaat al Muslimeen is an Islamic organization in Trinidad and Tobago. Its founder and leader, Sheikh Yasin Abu Bakr, is currently being tried on a charge of conspiracy to murder two expelled members of his group, one of whom was his son-in-law. In 2005, a trial on the same charges ended in a deadlocked jury. Sheikh Abu Bakr is now in the process of being retried.
Those are the bare bones of the situation. If you want to make sense of what’s happening, you have to browse through the T&T newspapers online and follow the crime news and politics (which is sometimes the same material). You can traipse all day through the Byzantine network of local crime and corruption and still never quite understand what’s going on.
Earlier in the trial two female jurors were excused from duty after they broke down in tears during jury selection. One said she was confused and agitated by the process, and the other said she missed her family. The news story does not state how many female jurors were finally empanelled.
Now comes the latest twist in this bizarre case:
The main witness in the State’s case against Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr yesterday admitted he would rather deal with “his maker in the hereafter” and lie to the court, than face the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to imprison him.
Brent ‘Big Brent’ Miller, the State’s main witness in its conspiracy to murder case against Bakr, yesterday admitted once more to the open court presided over by Justice Mustapha Ibrahim in the Port-of-Spain Third Criminal Court, that the immunity agreement he signed with the DPP was “strangling” him. He admitted that he “fraid jail” and dreaded “the thought of the hangman.” Miller was granted an immunity for offences he committed in exchange for testimony in the Bakr case. It also emerged that when Miller had originally testified in the Magistrates’ Court during the preliminary inquiry, he had perjured himself by swearing an oath on the Holy Koran, when he was in fact, a Catholic. Miller admitted under Bakr’s lead counsel Pamela Elder’s questioning that at the time the Holy Koran had “no meaning” to him.
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“I knew nothing about it,” he said. And although Miller was once described as the “third in command” of the Jamaat, Elder suggested — he was not even a genuine member of the Jamaat. Elder put to the witness that he wanted his freedom so badly under the terms of the State’s immunity agreement that he was even willing to lie about his religion if that meant his story would have been more believable.
“In fact, Brent Miller, you went so far in the Magistrates’ Court as to put aside your religion as a Roman Catholic and profess you were a Muslim,” she said. The day’s lengthy questioning of the witness quickly turned into a series of exchanges in which Miller would be questioned by Elder, deny her accusations claiming that he could not “remember” and then have to be reminded of what he had said before in the Magistrates’ Court by having the official court transcript read to him.
So this bozo was third in command of Jamaat al Muslimeen, without even being a Muslim? What kind of wussy Islamist group is this?
It’s doubtful that Big Brent is real big on Catholic theology, and he doesn’t sound like the kind of guy a prosecutor wants for his star witness:
Whenever the transcript was read to him, he would then retract his original denial and then agree with Elder. At some points during this questioning, Elder had to constantly remind the witness that honest answers to her questions would not affect his immunity.
Lead prosecutor Sir Timothy Cassell QC had on Wednesday warned the jury about Miller’s credibility.
None of this makes sense. Why would the prosecutor want to warn the jury about the credibility of his “main witness”? How does it buttress his case?
Jamaat al Muslimeen, based on the activities of its top leadership, has always sounded like a criminal mob and extortion racket, rather than a hotbed of Islamic zealotry. It turns out that Big Brent has a history of larceny and violence, and is more of a common or garden thug than a dedicated mujahid. To top it all off, it seems that he was probably unable to read, even in translation, the Koran that he swore on:
…Elder went on to draw from the witness a barrage of procedural improprieties that took place surrounding his signing of a witness statement in exchange for immunity. It emerged that Miller had signed the statement without being able to read and that when he had gone to the DPP’s office on the day he signed his immunity agreement, no one asked him about the conditions under which he had signed the statement, no one asked him if he could read, no one asked him about crucial details that were contained in his statements.
This trial would have to rise a few fathoms to reach the level of a farrago.
The most interesting aspect of it is the idea that swearing on the scripture of a religion you don’t believe in constitutes perjury. If the sheikh swore on a Bible, his testimony would be perjury, too.
So how do you empanel an atheist? What book would he swear on in the courtrooms of Trinidad and Tobago?
Hat tip: Uncle Pavian.