UAE policeman in court for posting Lionel Messi passport picture on Snapchat

Dubai Airport officer on trial for breaching privacy of the superstar footballer

Image Credit: AFP
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Dubai: An airport policeman who admitted that he posted a photo of Lionel Messi’s passport on Snapchat could face six months in jail and fined up to Dh500,000.

Barcelona legend Messi had just arrived at Dubai International Airport on December 27 to collect the Global Soccer Award’s best player award when the 26-year-old Emirati policeman, J.J., took a photo of the superstar’s passport and posted it on the social media network.

Prosecutors accused J.J. of abusing the telecommunication system and using his iPhone6 to post the legendary footballer’s photo of his passport and uploading it on social media.

When he appeared before the Dubai Misdemeanours Court, the suspect pleaded guilty and admitted that he was wrong when he posted Messi’s passport details on social media. He then asked for leniency.

Commenting on the expected punishment, advocate Ali Abdullah Al Shamsi said the suspect could face a minimum of six months and/or a fine that varies between Dh150,000 and Dh500,000 according to the Cybercrime Law of 2012.

When questioned by the police, the suspect said he went to the terminal to submit his sick leave when his colleague told him that Messi was about to arrive at the airport’s private jets section.

“I waited for Messi’s arrival to take a photo with him … but his private escorts informed me that the player was tired and would not be able to take a photo. Thereafter I walked to the passport control’s office where I saw Messi’s passport on a desk. I grabbed the passport and opened it to the page that contained Messi’s personal details and took video images with my iPhone via Snapchat,” said the suspect.

Advocate Al Shamsi told Gulf News: “What the suspect did is an act punishable by the Cybercrime Law. His behaviour is deemed a breach of Messi’s privacy because the passport is considered a private possession just like the details mentioned on it. As a private ownership, the passport and the details printed inside it are protected by law just like the protection that the passport’s bearer enjoys. The details on the travel document are shown to law enforcement officials, who are permitted to see those details as part of their job. Therefore what he did is considered a breach of Messi’s privacy.”

The defendant posted the image on Snapchat, according to records, and wrote a comment that read ‘This is Messi here in Dubai … what shall I do now? Burn his passport or let it go! Alas … I will let [it] go’.

According to the Cybercrime Law’s article 41, prosecutors have also requested the court to have the device used in the crime to be confiscated and the images erased.

A ruling will be heard next week.