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Is the Gov’t being soft on ISIS co-conspirators in T&T?

Are Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and the Trinidad and Tobago Government making insufficient use of available legislation in tackle the home grown terrorism threat?

Attorney Farid Scoon raises some points of concern in his Letter to the Editor:

Photo: A self-proclaimed ISIS fighter from Trinidad and Tobago. (Copyright Ibtimes.co.uk)
Photo: A self-proclaimed ISIS fighter from Trinidad and Tobago.
(Copyright Ibtimes.co.uk)

A Turkish newspaper reports that nine citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are being deported from that country because they were allegedly found attempting to cross into ISIS held territory in Syria and the Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says local law enforcement authorities “are in the process of confirming with certainty from their foreign counterparts what the actual state of affairs really is.”.

Al-Rawi made the comment in an interview with TV6 News on Tuesday, as he revealed the State now has 74 applications before the High Court to have individuals and organisations identified on a United Nations Security Council Sanctions List as “terrorist entities” in Trinidad and Tobago.

And by the way, WOW, we should be happy the State has already been successful in its application to have the group called ISIS—also known as ISIL or Da’esh—designated as a terrorist organisation by the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago.

I say again the Government is soft on ISIS and I will like to know why.

“The law enforcement authorities are in the process of confirming with certainty from their foreign counterparts what the actual state of affairs really is,” Al-Rawi said of the Daily Sabah report.

He said, however: “Trinidad and Tobago has a very well-structured system in receipt of deportees” that involves interrogation at the point of entry they return to.

Photo: PNM Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. (Copyright Elections.TT)
Photo: PNM Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
(Copyright Elections.TT)

Al-Rawi was asked if anything can be done to prevent T&T nationals from leaving their homeland to join groups such as ISIS. Is it really enough to state that, as Al-Rawi told the media:

“[Y]ou don’t know that somebody is going off to do something until they do it. I mean you can’t under our laws just speculate widely without evidence. If there is evidence to support something then obviously you can deal with it but you have to, of course, I mean you may suspect somebody is going to commit murder but if they get to the point of attempted murder and murder that’s where the law applies in certain circumstances unless you have the evidence to deal with the conspiracy to commit murder.”

That’s it?!  You want to monitor Muslims who are about their legitimate religious affairs going to Hajj and Umrah (the non-compulsory visit to Mecca), but you have no way of monitoring persons or multiplicity of persons who are visiting Turkey?

Nobody’s on alert?! Not travel agents, not the check in agents, not any protocol with airlines that serve Turkey or with Turkish intelligence to be on the look out for more of the more than 89 terrorist fighters—by your own very conservative estimation—that have joined Isis? No monitoring of the banks who are supplying travel credit cards for use in Syria?

Are we really expected to believe you that “…suspected local foreign terrorist fighters are under surveillance by local law enforcement?”

Photo: A self-proclaimed Trinidad and Tobago jihadist and ISIS fighter. (Copyright Caribbean360)
Photo: A self-proclaimed Trinidad and Tobago jihadist and ISIS fighter.
(Copyright Caribbean360)

Is that it?! Let me quote Section 9 in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2005:

9. (1) Any person who knowingly—(a) supports; or (b) solicits support for, the commission of a terrorist act, commits an offence and shall, on conviction on indictment, be liable to imprisonment for twenty years.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) “support” includes but is not limited to—(a) an offer to provide or the provision of expertise or a skill; (b) an offer to provide or the provision of falsified or forged documents; and (c) entering or remaining in any country, for the purpose of committing or facilitating a terrorist act.

You mean you can’t try to convict under this Section?

The State tried Yasin Abu Bakr for sedition for telling Muslims he’s vexed that they are not paying their zakat. Don’t you think that the State can try some persons under for entering or remaining in Turkey for the purpose of committing or facilitating a terrorist act, two wit to join ISIS?

You can’t get Turkish intelligence to assist? You can’t get their plane tickets, their telephone calls, their bank receipts? You mean can’t put a case together?

Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

OK, you can’t convict, but you can seriously investigate. Look at the powers that Section 24 of the Act confers on the State:

An inspector of police or higher with the consent of the DPP may apply ex parte to a judge in chambers for an order to the gather information from named persons. If the judge thinks that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence under this Act has been committed and that—(i) information concerning the offence; or (ii) information that may reveal the whereabouts of a person suspected by the police officer of having committed the offence, is likely to be obtained as a result of the Order, the Judge may order the examination on oath of the person named in the order; (c) order the person to attend at a time and place fixed by the judge, for the purpose of being examined; and (d) order the person to bring and produce any document or thing in his control or possession for the purpose of the examination.

When these persons return from Syria you can’t do that?

Why are you bothered and interested about an old poor man, Kareem Ibrahiim, now dead—who was set up in an FBI sting operation, who had no belongings when he was alive and left none after his death—and at the same time so reticent about men committed to arms who are about to re-enter the country after allegedly pledging allegiance to the hypocrite caliph, Al Baghdadi?

Photo: ISIS soldiers prepare to execute a hostage. (Copyright UK Mirror)
Photo: ISIS soldiers prepare to execute a hostage.
(Copyright UK Mirror)

Don’t tell me that the best response to taking charge of a situation where nine new Trini may have been caught eloping to Syria is that: “We have draft legislation right now awaiting comment from the DPP, the Commissioner of Police and the Chief Immigration Officer specifically to deal with foreign terrorist fighters and their passage through and return back to Trinidad and Tobago.”

We might be in a conflagration before that bill is to be laid before Parliament in September.

Why are you so soft on ISIS?

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  1. Yes …. we don’t need that here p

  2. ..Plan? Hahahahahahaha. Plan? We will wake up one evening and…

  3. Haida Mohammed, if you listen to Wayne Chance, there is no real plan. His organisation, Vision and Mission, does the brunt of the work and are not properly recompensed for what they do for the deportees. If it weren’t for that organisation I don’t know what would have happened to us!

  4. I am still wondering whether we have a programme for displaced US residents who are sent hoe after serving time in us prisons, fifteen year after this started ,do we have a plan, and how many return to the USA?How?

  5. To me this sounds like a lawyer looking for work

  6. Can we get a list of these people? Probably not…

  7. More than 100 persons from Trinidad have left to join ISIS, including seeming well-educated doctors, and at least 1 lawyer. This is the second time Trinidad and Trinidadians have been featured in official ISIS propaganda. This time accompanied with very specific threats against coalition interests. A cheap source of English-speaking, no-visa-required for Europe, lab our – yes. A credible threat? Definitely yes.

  8. Yes, it is vitally important to not use heavy handed measures. We can see that those aren’t working.

  9. I have no problem maintaining good relations with those groups. Also, not making people feel alienated by heavy handed security measures. In terms of the credibility of the threat since we have had ISIS fighters from this country, I think it goes from 1% to 2%. So yes, it is a more credible threat but still not credible enough to worry all that much about.

  10. Don’t take the flippant thing personally Dan. I’m not making a character attack on you.
    I think ISIS was a barely credible threat to Trinidad and Tobago before when we had NO fighters from this country. Now that we have definitely had more than a dozen locals leave and quite a few return, I don’t see it that way anymore.
    What those men may have been exposed to in Syria can have an impact on pockets of our society, so I’d be proactive about that.
    That’s just my opinion. An idea can be like a virus.
    My personal belief is that ISIS, like an international business chain of evil, wants to make money and expand.
    Is T&T no more than another source of cheap labor?
    I don’t know. But what if it isn’t? I feel that is worth considering.
    I won’t say to spend millions in creating an anti terrorism department. But there might be cheaper ways, including dealing directly with the local Muslim groups who I’m sure are largely against ISIS.

  11. Not viewing T&T as of credible strategic consequence to ISIS does not mean being flippant. It is saying that we have other, more immediate, more credible threats in Trinidad & Tobago which demand more attention and that this is deservedly low on our list of priorities. There have been repeated attacks on the NATO allies. Why none here?

    The aim of ISIS is to turn the West against Islam in order to create a fortress mentality by Sunnis. Their aims are much better served by blowing up movie theaters in New York and Paris than by bombing some oil installations in a country most NATO citizens have never heard of. Have they attacked any oil facilities outside the Middle East anyway? No.

    It is neither flippant, nor a dereliction of duty, to consider something a remote threat and to establish greater priorities. By all means examine it. But your examination must guide your response. And honestly, I think that a minimal response is entirely appropriate.

    Panicking about a barely credible threat is as poor a judgement as being “flippant”.

  12. “Since late 2014, the Islamic State has instructed foreigners joining the group to make their trip look like a holiday in southern Turkey, including booking a return flight and paying for an all-inclusive vacation at a beach resort, from which smugglers arrange their transport into Syria, according to intelligence documents and Mr. Sarfo’s account.

    That cover story creates pressure to keep things moving quickly during the recruits’ training in Syria, and most get a bare minimum — just a few days of basic weapons practice, in some instances…”

    Turkey you said Rhoda? Lol.

  13. Especially as “Al Trinidadi’s” piece specifically called for attacks on “Crusader interests” like embassies here.

  14. “The first port of call for new arrivals to the Islamic State is a network of dormitories in Syria, just across the border from Turkey. There, recruits are interviewed and inventoried.

    Mr. Sarfo was fingerprinted, and a doctor came to draw a blood sample and perform a physical examination. A man with a laptop conducted an intake interview. “He was asking normal questions like: ‘What’s your name? What’s your second name? Who’s your mom? Where’s your mom originally from? What did you study? What degree do you have? What’s your ambition? What do you want to become?’” Mr. Sarfo said…

    In his own interactions with the Emni, Mr. Sarfo realized that they were preparing a global portfolio of terrorists and looking to fill holes in their international network, he said….

    The intelligence documents and Mr. Sarfo agree that the Islamic State has made the most of its recruits’ nationalities by sending them back to plot attacks at home.”

    Pretty interesting post by Martin Raymond above Asha Javeed and Dan Ethan Martineau. T&T is small. But we are an oil producing country right on the border of South America.
    I’m not sure we should be too flippant.

  15. I really don’t know what to say on this editorial. My first instinct is to lock them up but first they have to catch them. Can they?

  16. Steups. We have real actual problems here. ISIS is not a strategic threat to Trinidad and Tobago. Let Europe and the USA worry about that. Why we have to be in every damn thing so?

  17. this is T&T, reactionary and everyone has an opinion. since the issue came up some years ago about Trinidadians travelling to Syria to fight in ISIS, what legal measures have ben put in place?

  18. I think Mr. Pierre is mostly right. The government ought not to be involved in the investigation and prosecution of crime. The police should do that and where necessary, in consult with the DPP. Any political involvement in the process is corruptly . So I’d say it is wrong to juxtapose govt and police and DPP. The process of consultation is permissible because it is directed at legislative measures to come etc. On another note-Mr. Scoon is right about the provisions, but I’m not sure how the AG gets in the firing line here at all. Lastly, check CNN yesterday for arrests for supporting terrorist orgs. That defendant was under surveillance for years but was only arrestable yesterday after purchasing gift cards for Isis fighters. Other questions for your readers may be Why shouldn’t the findings so far – that they were attempting to join and fight with Isis- not render them
    Open to being charged with supporting terrorism?

  19. Farid Scoon, I know there is legislation that allows the police to pick up practically anyone in the country for 72 hours. I’m thinking about the anti-gang legislation that seems pretty broad.
    But after they hold the men and question them. Then what?
    Will that alone make us safer?
    Like you, I am very distrustful about the whole matter of “keeping them under surveillance.”

  20. Maybe they will fall in love and forget about their race to meet their maker. Best case scenario. Lol

  21. Lasana Liburd permit me to take a stab at this. The police and the DPP are all creatures of statute and invariably components of the State’s machinery. That being said, they are both expected to be independent institutions. It becomes a matter of perception when it is phrased such as ‘..the AG call in the DPP..’. The AG cannot ‘call in’ the DPP. The AG’s role as it relates to being the line Minister is merely for administrative purposes and the issue of financial autonomy for the DPP is a live one as it touches and concerns the perception(and reality) of the DPP’s independence. Consultation between the various stakeholders must take place. The Office of the DPP is the principal public prosecution authority for Trinidad and Tobago (Section 90(3) of the Constitution). It will be imprudent for an AG/Government to NOT consult with the DPP in matters that may concern State prosecutions. Recent example- the number of matters that had to be discontinued by the DPP during the State of Emergency 2011.

  22. Lasana Liburd an interesting point was raised this morning…unless we catch said dissidents in action what are we prosecuting them for? Being in Turkey? We’d have to be clear on what charges we want laid against them and the evidence to support it. I was in Turkey last year…how we know I am not a terrorist?

  23. They simply don’t know what to do. None of them, it seems, have the testicular fortitude to take a stance and take the lead in such a serious matter.

  24. One question when you have time Justin Phelps. Is it wrong to juxtapose “Government” with “Police/DPP” here?
    I’m not sure where the line would be drawn. Would the AG call in the DPP to discuss the possibilities based on this legislation? Or would that be improper, which would make the suggestion here improper?
    I’m curious about that.

  25. ..One setta intellectual/legal discussion and then NUTTEN. Trini..

  26. They will return, plenty talk will fly, and daiz it.

  27. I hope when they reach back Mr Scoon will not turn up as the attorney representing them after that letter!

  28. They need to pass legislation that makes it a crime for Trinidadians to join groups Trinidad and Tobago or the United Nations has labeled terror organizations so that these individuals can be detained and prosecuted on reentering the country. Also a special prison needs to be constructed for the detention of these prisoners to separate them from and prevent them radicalizing T&T’s general prison population. Lastly individuals convicted and sentenced for joining terror groups should be placed on terror watch lists for the rest of their lives and be made to check in with a parole officer in person weekly for the remainder of their lives for close monitoring of their whereabouts and activities.

  29. Legislation that can be used to keep them off the street. Is our govt trying to locate the people who are enlisting these young men? What about that group in Central that is supposed to be a group of interest and their imam?!

  30. The government is being soft on governance. In fact I can’t recall a single serious government in my lifetime, particularly on national security.

  31. After reading this, I can only conclude that the legal ‘expertise’ on both sides of the divide is sadly on a very low threshold.