The State has been ordered to pay compensation to businessman Inshan Ishmael and a San Fernando man, over them being arrested and charged for leading an unauthorised protest outside of the T&T Guardian’s former headquarters in 2016.
Justice Ricky Rahim made the order on Tuesday, as he upheld the duo’s wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution case after a brief in-person trial at the Waterfront Judicial Centre in Port-of-Spain.
In the lawsuit, Ishmael, his cameraman Wasim Daniel and Devendra Partap were claiming that police did not have reasonable or probable cause to suspect that they were involved in leading an illegal demonstration and acted with malice in charging them.
The trio brought the case seeking compensation after the charge was reduced to participating in an illegal protest and they were eventually found not guilty.
However, Daniel’s case was dismissed by Rahim, as he did not attend or participate in the trial.
Although Rahim upheld Ishmael and Partap’s cases, he did not assess the compensation owed to them, as they did not file submissions on the issue before him. The assessment will be performed by a High Court Master at a later date.
Testifying on Tuesday, Ishmael, the owner of the Islamic Broadcast Network (IBN), claimed that on July 25, 2016, he was invited by an Imam to cover a demonstration outside of Guardian Media Limited’s Chaguanas office over a column published by this newspaper.
Ishmael claimed that he and Daniel, who served as a cameraman for his television show Breaking Barriers, were dressed in the network’s T-shirts and were conducting interviews when they were arrested by police.
Throughout his testimony, Ishmael denied that the demonstration was a march or protest, as described by police.
While he denied being involved in the planning of the event, he contended that it did not require the approval of the Commissioner of Police, as it took place on a private concrete bridge between the Solomon Hochoy Highway and the company’s building.
“They were gathered. There was no march,” he said.
Ishmael claimed that he, Daniel, Partap and other detainees were taken to the Chaguanas Police Station and were forced to spend several hours in a dirty holding cell before charges were laid.
He sought to suggest police officers were directed to arrest and charge him by a senior police officer, who he claimed to have previously “exposed” on his show.
In his evidence, Partap, of Pleasantville, claimed that he had just exited a Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) bus at a stop off the highway and was making his way to Chaguanas to purchase something for his then-fiancé when he was arrested.
Partap said the police officers did not tell him a reason for his arrest until later that night and ignored his claims that he was in no way involved in the demonstration.
“The worse part about it was being put into a jail cell despite asking why I was here for hours and getting no response,” Partap said.
Partap claimed that after his arrest, he suffered depression and contemplated suicide. He said that the charge also affected his business prospects.
In their evidence, Sgt Larry David and Cpl Gary Greedy, both formerly assigned to the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB), testified over their involvement in the case.
Both officers claimed that they saw the three men holding placards and showing them to motorists driving in the southbound lane of the highway.
However, they admitted that they could not explain why the placards did not form the evidence in their criminal case.
They also admitted that they made no checks to determine if the demonstration had received approval and that the trio’s arrests were based on instructions from a senior officer, who was not on the scene.
“I cannot say who was leading the protest,” Greedy said.
In deciding the case, Justice Rahim ruled that he did not believe the officers’ evidence of what transpired.
He ruled that their actions towards Partap were particularly egregious, as he was simply a “passer-by” and faced dire mental distress as a result.
The trio was represented by Richard Jaggasar and Nigel Trancoso, while Monica Smith represented the State.