At his compound on the outskirts of Port of Spain, the man responsible for the only attempted militant Islamic overthrow of a Western government is smiling. "I've been charged with treason, I've been charged with sedition, with murder, conspiracy to murder, [stockpiling] guns…." Abu Bakr, the fiery 73-year-old leader of Jamaat al Muslimeen, rattles off the many accusations that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has leveled against him.
"Nothing has stuck, because it's fabricated," he continues. "They list all the charges in a book, and they just throw the book at me…. That's not prosecution, that's persecution!"
Bakr has mellowed a bit in his old age, but he still relishes the opportunity to serve as a thorn in the side of the government with whom he has clashed for decades. Depending on which local you ask, "The Jamaat" is either a jihadi group, a vast criminal organization, an invaluable community resource providing jobs and social services to Trinidad's disadvantaged, or a combination of all three.
But everyone agrees that the coup that Bakr led in 1990 — which held the state hostage for six days, unleashed widespread looting and chaos, and resulted in 24 deaths and the shooting of the prime minister — changed the country forever.