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1990 Islamic uprising being reexamined

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 9:56 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 1990 file photo, a militant of the group Jamaat al Muslimeen surrenders to Trinidad's Army troops during a coup attempt in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The Muslim cleric, Yasin Abu Bakr, who led a small army that stormed Trinidad & Tobago?s parliament in a blaze of gunfire is a free man. Never convicted of any charges, Bakr presides over a mosque and school complex in the country?s capital. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File) (Associated Press) FILE - In this Aug. 1, 1990 file photo, a militant of the group Jamaat al Muslimeen surrenders to Trinidad's Army troops during a coup attempt in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The Muslim cleric, Yasin Abu Bakr, who led a small army that stormed Trinidad & Tobago?s parliament in a blaze of gunfire is a free man. Never convicted of any charges, Bakr presides over a mosque and school complex in the country?s capital. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File) (Associated Press)

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — The Muslim cleric who led a small army that stormed Trinidad & Tobago's parliament in a blaze of gunfire is a free man. Never convicted of any charges, he cheerfully presides over a mosque and school complex in the country's bustling capital and shares time among his four wives, the maximum Islam allows.

Yasin Abu Bakr and his followers were jailed for two years after the 1990 attempt to overthrow the government of one of the Caribbean's most prosperous countries. But they were freed under an amnesty and attempts to prosecute them failed even though 24 people were killed. More than 50 people were taken hostage, including the prime minister, who was bound and shot in the leg.

After years of lingering questions about the attempted coup by Bakr and 113 armed rebels, a commission appointed by the government in 2010 has been taking a fresh look into the only Islamic revolt in the Western Hemisphere. The commission has held more than a dozen sessions over three years in an effort to understand better how and why the violent upheaval occurred. But the panel has no subpoena power and the findings are unlikely to lead to any arrests.

And Bakr isn't hurrying to provide any answers.

The towering 72-year-old, who dresses in a white robe and skullcap, recently gave The Associated Press a rare interview. Bakr said he hasn't decided if he'll testify before the five-member commission, which is expected to finish collecting testimony by year's end. He said the panel won't learn anything important unless he agrees to help.

"I am the architect; I am the leader of the coup," Bakr told the AP at the Jamaat al Muslimeen group's compound.

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