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Abuse of Power
Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007

The arrest of Ishmael should be thoroughly condemned

By A. A. Hotep
January 26, 2007

What will certainly go down as one of the worst police blunders is the arrest of activist Inshan Ishmael, followed by a charge of "failing to print the names and addresses of the publisher and publicist on a handbill that he allegedly circulated." Many people did not even know that was an offence on the books until they heard of it yesterday. But many feel that charge was an attempt to cover up the blunder (trying to emulate the stupidness in the U.S.) of trying to detain Ishmael under the dubious anti-terrorism laws that were passed at the behest of the U.S. government.

Ishmael, a foreign used car dealer who also operates the Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN), called for a national shutdown of the country for yesterday and today in protest of crime, corruption and high food prices. He is an open critic of the PNM government.

Ishmael was taken away by a huge contingent of police officers who stormed his home around 9:45pm on Wednesday night. Ishmael said he was taken to CID and ordered to strip naked and squat in the middle of the Central Police Station in Port-of-Spain. Yesterday Ishmael appeared in court; he pleaded not guilty and was placed on $10,000 bail.

Gregory Delzin, SC, while addressing Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate's Court yesterday complained to the court that the police misinformed Ishmael's attorneys. He said the police informed his lawyers that he had been arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 and under the act they could keep him for 72 hours.

Delzin stated that the anti-terrorism legislation did not give the police the power to arrest except by a detention order of a judge. Delzin further stated that, "any act which disrupts any service and is committed in pursuance of a demonstration, protest, or stoppage of work is specially exempted from the definition of a terrorist act."

Delzin told the court that Ishmael's activities could not fall under the Anti-Terrorism Act and that, "The police in hindsight wanted to find an excuse for their behaviour."

Many business owners closed their businesses in support of the call to shut down the country, many others remained open.

Why would the police feel they could get away with what was clearly an abuse of power? I believe that they heard many business people objecting to the shut down and claiming not to be in support of it and they felt they could have found grounds to detain and charge Ishmael just like they did Abu Bakr. Obviously they felt with the recent slaying of WPC Elizabeth Sutherland the public would be sympathetic to their heavy-handedness.

What the police unwittingly demonstrated is how easily they abuse their power.

There is already a strong suspicion that the police murdered Thorne John of Trou Macaque, Laventille, following the murder of WPC Elizabeth Sutherland, her family and a friend. A witness said that the police executed John after firing a shot through his window to keep him from observing what was taking place. He said prior to the shot through his window they told him to go back inside, this is police business. The police claimed that John was shot after he shot at them. This killing should be thoroughly investigated.

The government's failure to promptly condemn the police department's abusive actions in the arrest of Ishmael, leaves many suspecting that the actions of the police were motivated by government officials.

Those who are entrusted to enforce the law must never be allowed to get away with abusing that authority. There are already many cases of police involvement in crime and abusing their power, that is the reason citizens do not feel it is safe to report certain crimes to the police while trusting the police with their lives.

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