Trinidad AG: PM Eager to Rebut Corruption Claims

By: Tony Fraser - AP Writer
By: Tony Fraser - AP Writer

Prime Minister Patrick Manning will welcome an opportunity to rebut allegations in court that he promised state resources to the leader of a radical Islamic group behind a bloody 1990 coup attempt, the attorney general told lawmakers Monday.

A judge ordered the government on Friday to investigate claims by the leader of Jamaat al Muslimeen that Manning offered state lands and vowed to drop charges of damaging government property in exchange for support in the 2002 election.

The prime minister has not personally commented on the judge's order. But in a terse address in Parliament, Attorney General John Jeremie said Manning is eager to answer the accusations in court.

Jeremie dismissed as groundless the claims made by the group's charismatic leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, and said the government "deplores in the strongest terms possible the attempt by some to treat these words as factual."

Abu Bakr, whose local followers are largely black converts to Sunni Islam, made the allegations in an affidavit in this twin-island Caribbean nation off the coast of Venezuela.

On Friday, High Court Judge Rajendra Narine ordered authorities to investigate Abu Bakr's charges, citing "the extremely serious nature of the allegations."

Narine earlier dismissed Abu Bakr's claims to state property that he alleged was promised to him, and instead ordered him to sell several properties to pay the government $6 million in outstanding damages incurred during the 1990 coup attempt.

During the coup attempt, Abu Bakr's group stormed Parliament and took the prime minister and his Cabinet hostage in a rebellion that killed 24 people. The rebels eventually surrendered and were later pardoned.

Jamaat al Muslimeen has faded as a political force in Trinidad, although its members have been accused of participating in shootings, kidnappings and bank robberies.

The group denied involvement two years ago in a plot by four men, including two Trinidadians, to ignite a fuel pipeline feeding New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.


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