A journalist was arrested, DNA swabbed and held in a prison cell for taking photographs of police security barriers on a public street in Cardiff as the lockdown surrounding the NATO summit in Wales resembles what some have described as an “open air prison.”
Mohammed Esufali was taking pictures of yellow security barriers in Queen Street at around 4am on Tuesday morning in preparation for his coverage of the summit, during which he is set to work with RT’s Ruptly news agency.
Esufali was immediately approached by four police officers who jumped out of a nearby van and questioned about why he was taking the photos, asked for his ID and told that he was being stopped under terrorism laws. One of the officers threatened Esufali with being detained for three months without charge or trial.
Esufali explained that he was taking the photos at 4am because the streets were empty and he wanted to avoid capturing other people in the images.
Officers checked Esufali’s drivers license before seizing his phone to obtain its IMEI number, which is used to track locations and download private data. Police also read through Esufali’s text messages before asking him to look at a CCTV camera so his image could be captured.
“After numerous checks were made, they arrested me on suspicion of theft of a driving licence,” writes Esufali. “Now, a real thief would not have a debit card, library card and student card in the same wallet. So they knew that the card was real but then under guise of ‘security’ arrested me.”
Esufali was handcuffed, put in a police van and then taken to Cardiff Bay police station, where he was locked in a solitary room and forced to undergo a DNA swab.
When police learned that Esufali’s drivers license was perfectly legitimate, they said he was free to go but that officers traveling from 50 miles away in Manchester were on their way to question him further. After waiting at the station for several more hours, Esufali was questioned by CID officers and Manchester police before finally being allowed to leave at 10:40am.
While it could be argued that the officers were sensible in at least questioning Esufali, his subsequent arrest, simply for taking photographs, cannot be justified. It’s apparent that police also used the accusation of claiming Esufali’s drivers license was not legitimate in order to arrest him under false pretenses.
The barriers photographed by Esufali are part of the “ring of steel” that has been put in place for the NATO summit, with some describing the set up as an “open air prison” or something resembling the Berlin Wall.
Ten miles of 9 foot high security fencing has been erected at a cost of £50 million pounds to protect 67 world leaders who will meet inside a temporary “island” while the public and some 20,000 protesters are kept far at bay.
Six warships will be docked in Cardiff Bay, while NATO helicopters and V-22 military Ospreys will guard the summit’s no fly zone. Armed police are also patrolling the city center and shopping malls.
Local businesses, commuters and residents have complained that the measures represent “a massive over-reaction,” while Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns told BBC Wales, “It’s completely disproportionate and a major misjudgment by the Vale local authority.”
Demonstrators will protest NATO’s role in fostering new conflicts around the globe as world leaders prepare to discuss a potential attack on Syria which will be justified by the presence of ISIS militants in the country, as well as the ongoing clash between Ukraine and Russia.
NATO vehemently attempted to build consensus for a military campaign targeting the Assad government last year but eventually failed when it failed to provide hard evidence that the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta was the work of Syrian forces. An MIT study later concluded that the attack could not have been launched from government controlled areas.