Canadian vlogger: Politics behind my arrest

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A screengrab from a YouTube video by Chris Must List on gang violence in TT. –


CANADIAN YouTuber, Christopher, “Chris Must List” Hughes said he believes his arrest was politically motivated.

He made the speculations while speaking to attorney, Criston J Williams after he was arrested on Tuesday. Williams later released the audio to traditional media sources.

“I am loved in this country. I want to keep it that way. I have done nothing wrong. It seems like a political ploy for some reason. Someone in the government is upset.”

Hughes was arrested by the Special Investigation Unit on Tuesday under the Anti-Gang Act, as well as breaching the Immigration Act of TT at Flagstaff, Long Circular Road, St James. Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Intelligence and Investigations Suzette Martin confirmed this to Newsday.

The Canadian High Commission says it is aware of the situation and is liaising with local authorities.

In the audio shared with media, Williams asked Hughes if he was told that the Minister of National security had declared him as someone who contravened the Immigration Act, to which he answered no. However, he did say that part of his charges were under the act.

“Did they (investigating officers) tell you they were acting under the auspices of the Minister of National Security?” Williams asked.

They told me nothing,” Hughes responded. “I was given the document that you were provided. No one explained what it is. I don’t even know what promoting a gang means at all.”

He also denied claims made in media report that he had been associating and promoting gangs.

“No, I did not promote any gangs, nor did I give advice to any gangs. I did not profit or exchange any money with any gangs. I asked questions to strangers on the street. Never was there a confirmation of gangs.”

The 45-year-old travel vlogger and self-proclaimed journalist has been in TT for several weeks.

In some of his videos, civilians can be seen with guns and discussing ongoing gang wars. These videos have since gone viral.

Speaking to Newsday on Wednesday morning, Hughes’ attorney Criston Williams said he was unsure whether police took the report about threats to Hughes’ life, as they were “giving him a hard time.”

But he confirmed Hughes was still being detained.

Hughes’ legal representatives said he was arrested after trying to report that threats were made against his life by two “political figures” and two officers.

On Tuesday night, there was talk on social media that the YouTuber’s life had been threatened.

Asked about this, Williams said, “Yes. He told me the threats came from two political figures and two police officers.

“And then they arrested him.”

Williams said the nature of the threats was “too sensitive” to reveal.

Police are also concerned Hughes breached immigration laws by saying he was visiting as a tourist. Police claim his videos was “work,” since they are monetised.

Hughes in the recording he simply posts his videos for the world to see.

“My daughter is nine. She uploads videos to YouTube. That doesn’t mean she works for YouTube. YouTube has billions of people uploading. It’s not a job, it’s what people do, period. They want the world to see something, they upload it to YouTube,” he said. “I am a tourist on vacation that films what I do. I also played basketball two days ago. That doesn’t mean I’m a basketball player.”

In an earlier statement, Williams said he did “not understand how the Special Investigations Unit can justify a false-imprisonment scheme in which an individual is brought in to assist with enquiries and/or interviews and is not permitted to leave upon completion.”

Police: Hughes needed for investigations

Williams told Newsday if Hughes continues to be detained, he intends to secure his release through a writ of habeas corpus. However, in a media release made in response to his intentions, police said they had the right to detain suspects for a reasonable time to ensure that their investigations are not hampered.

“Whilst we understand and do appreciate your enthusiasm in the circumstances, kindly be reminded that police officers ought to be allowed the opportunity to investigate and properly advance investigations without unnecessary haste in order to reduce error and ensure fairness to all parties involved,” the police’s legal unit said in a response.

“The premature disturbance of the ongoing investigation stymies its advancement as the investigation is unduly affected to respond to your good self.

“In consideration of the short period of time that has elapsed, we ask that you hold your hands from filing a Writ of Habeas Corpus in this matter and allow the police officers the necessary time to advance their investigations.”

Newsday asked head of the police’s corporate communications unit Joanne Archieabout the alleged threats against Hughes, to which she said, “Awaiting feedback on the issue.”

The Anti-Gang Act says a person who professes to be a gang leader or member to intimidate others or gain benefits, performs an act to gain gang membership or is a gang member can face up to 25 years in jail.

Anyone who guides, instructs or finances gang members can face the same penalty.

Last week, Hughes told Newsday he was showing reality in his videos, and anyone who took issue with them just did not like the idea of a foreigner doing this. He said he considers himself a journalist.

“People have a problem with videos showing guns, but not the murders, not the fact that innocent women and children are being killed…The people in Trinidad know that murder is a problem and gang activity is a problem, they just don’t want me as a tourist coming here to highlight it,” he had told Newsday.

Police have also seized all of Hughes’s cameras, phones and computers.

Newsday obtained a copy of the search warrant which allowed Hughes’s devices to be seized. It said the devices “will afford evidence as to the commission of the offences, namely possession of firearm and ammunition contrary to the Firearms Act…professing to be a gang leader or a gang member to intimidate other (people) and to promote a gang, knowingly providing support to gangs, and engaging in a profession for gain (while) not being issued with a valid work permit.”

The warrant was issued on Monday.

Newsday contacted Archie for an update, and in a WhatsApp message at 2.39pm, she said, “He is in police custody and the officers are still working with him.

“We will make a release as soon as it is appropriate to do so.”

Newsday e-mailed the Canadian High Commission about reports Hughes had contacted representatives there for assistance.

A representative said Global Affairs Canada is “aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen in Port of Spain, Trinidad.”

The representative added, “Consular officers are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance.

“Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed.”

At a passing-out parade at the Police Barracks in St James, Newsday asked both the Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds to comment on Hughes’ arrest. They declined.