BUSINESSMAN Inshan Ishmael has won his malicious prosecution lawsuit against the State after his arrest in 2016 for allegedly being involved in a public protest outside the Guardian Media building in Chaguanas.
At his trial on Tuesday, Ishmael described his arrest and prosecution as “lies and falsehoods.”
Ishmael and self-employed businessman Devendra Partap sued the State for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment.
On Tuesday, Ishmael and Partap testified at the malicious prosecution trial at the Judicial Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, before Justice Ricky Rahim. After the trial, Rahim awarded both men damages for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment from 4.30 pm on July 25 to 4 am the next day. Both men also received general damages, aggravated and exemplary damages for malicious prosecution. The amount of compensation each man will receive is to be quantified by a Master.
In his ruling, Rahim said, in particular, the actions of the police against Partap were egregious. He said the evidence was that he was simply a passer-by when he was arrested and the consequences of it for him had been dire mentally. Partap had to be warded at St Ann’s Hospital for a short period.
In his lawsuit, he said he was unable to find work and became depressed and suicidal. During the trial at the magistrates’ court, the magistrate had to provide counselling for him because he appeared visibly distressed.
Rahim also said he did not believe the evidence of the police when they said the two men went to the front of the police bus and began to protest with placards.
At the time, it was alleged that Ishmael and two others were part of a demonstration outside the newspaper’s offices over a column which appeared on July 6, the Eid holiday, headlined “How not to be killed by Islamists.”
Ishmael was initially charged with leading a protest, and the two others with protesting without a permit. The charge against Ishmael was amended during the prosecution in the magistrates’ court to participating in a protest without a permit.
After appearing in court 23 times, and spending $39,000 in legal fees, on May 10, 2018, they were found not guilty of the incident, which allegedly took place on July 25, 2016.
Ishmael said he was at the Guardian building because an imam had told him about the gathering there and he went with his cameraman, Wasim Daniel, to cover the event. Ishmael owns and runs the Islamic Broadcast Network (IBN).
Daniel was also part of the claim but did not show up at Tuesday’s trial.
Partap said he had only got off a bus on the Uriah Butler Highway with the intention of walking into Chaguanas to get a taxi to San Fernando when he was arrested. Both men denied they had placards.
Ishmael said he and his worker were dressed in T-shirts with the IBN logo, while Partap was just nearby. He said he was called out by a police officer who arrived at about 4 pm with 20 others in a police bus. In all, he said there were about 50 police officers at the scene, and the gathering was on private property belonging to the media house.
He said he repeatedly asked why he was being arrested but was pushed into the police bus.
“It was a public spectacle.”
Ishmael said it was “totally false” to say he was involved in the protest and maintains in his lawsuit that he was targeted by the police because one of the officers present was a senior officer he had “exposed” on his Breaking Barriers programme a week earlier.
Ishmael said the police physically manhandled him and gave a vivid description of the prisoners’ cell at the Chaguanas police station during his testimony.
Also testifying were three of the officers involved in the arrest. Sgt Larry David said he could not say if anyone had permission to be at the Guardian building, also admitting he received certain instructions from an inspector.
He claimed the men left the group at the Guardian building and started showing placards to drivers on the southbound lane of the highway before they were arrested. Rahim said he did not believe this evidence.
Representing the Attorney General was attorney Monica Smith. Ishmael and Partap were represented by attorneys Nigel Trancoso and Richard Jaggasar.