Somali wins damages over unlawful arrest
THE Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has once again confirmed that the constitution enshrined the right to freedom and no one may be arbitrarily deprived of their freedom.
“It has long been firmly established in our common law that every interference with physical liberty is prima facie (on the face of it) unlawful,” Acting Judge Maboku Mangena said.
He made these remarks during a judgment following a damages claim by a Somali citizen, Ayub Mohammed, who was arrested without any reason by the police in his shop in Albertinia in the Western Cape.
The police claimed that he badmouthed them when they wanted to search his shop, allegedly saying “you f***ing police are always looking for papers”. They claimed he was arrested for acting in a “riotous manner” as he was swearing at them. But the judge found the police simply looked for excuses when they were confronted in court.
Mohammed said he would never badmouth a police official as he knew, as a foreigner, that one couldn’t annoy the police. He told the court that he was in his shop on April 16, 2012, when two officers walked in at around 7pm.
They asked him about his permit to be in the country which he produced. When they noticed it was in order, they questioned him whether he was selling drugs or “illegal stuff ”.
Mohammed denied that he was involved in illegal dealings, but he nevertheless allowed the police to search his shop.
When the police found nothing, the conversation moved to the profitability of the business. The police questioned how it was possible for him, as a 20-year-old, to own a shop.
Mohammed said he did not answer them as he feared that they may attack him.
The police told him that they were officers of the law and that when they ask questions, he had to answer. He was also told that he was an immigrant and could be arrested.
Mohammed said they suddenly pulled him towards the police van and drove around with him for a while, before they took him to the police station.
He was locked up in a cell for five hours without being told why, before he was told to go home.
Mohammed told the judge that he understood that being an immigrant, he needed police protection and he understood that he should obey the laws of this country. He said he had no reason to create a problem for himself by badmouthing the police. He also said he understood that they needed to do their job, but he could not understand why he was arrested and deprived of his liberty for no reason.
The police had a different story to tell. They said they left the shop when they saw that his papers were in order. They were about to climb into their vehicle when Mohammed came into the street and hurled abuse at them, they claimed.
The judge said the police version that Mohammed was “riotous” was far-fetched. It was clear that they “unnecessary demonstrated their power”. He ruled the police minister liable for his damages. The amount due will be determined later.