A screengrab from the YouTube video that shows a government official beating a driver using his Ghutra. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Dubai Police this week sent out a strong, unequivocal message that no one is above the law when they arrested an Emirati for assaulting an Indian driver in full public view.

The suspect, believed to be a high-ranking government officer, may face trial in the misdemeanour court if the prosecution decides to press charges under Article 339 of the Penal Code.

All this happened after the police took cognizance of a minute-and-a-half video depicting the assault. The video went viral on social network sites on Monday, triggering outrage among Emiratis and expatriates alike. Dubai Police’s Twitter account was inundated with messages, catching the attention of Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other prominent Emiratis.

The video, first posted on YouTube on Monday evening, showed the suspect repeatedly beating the van driver of a stationery company with his agal, a black cord worn by Arabs. The Emirati also punched him and disregarded intervention by a passerby who apparently asked him to stop, the video showed. At one point the suspect dropped his agal and the Indian man picked it up from the ground and gave it back to the suspect, who resumed the beatings and punches.

The next day, Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police, announced the Emirati government officer’s arrest. Stating that “no one is above the law”, while condemning the assault as “inappropriate”, Al Mazeina said the case would be handed over to the public prosecution.

The video went viral on YouTube, WhatsApp and Live Leak and was shared by both Indian expatriates and Emiratis, dominating discussions in offices and homes throughout Tuesday. Some Emiratis quoted in media reports strongly condemned the assault and said the suspect brought disrepute to the community during the holy month of Ramadan.

There has been little public reaction from the Indian expatriate community, but those who saw the video privately expressed outrage. Many are giving a racist slant to the incident: a powerful kandoura-wearing Emirati assaulting a poor Indian expatriate. They point out that the Emirati was driving an expensive SUV with a three-digit registration number-plate. But several others stress that this is a simple case of road rage -– one driver assaulting another over a minor traffic dispute.

It was indeed an incident of road rage and those who brand it as the case of a citizen of a host nation assaulting a poor migrant worker would be stretching it too far. The Indian van driver was running away after clipping the Emirati’s car. The suspect then chased him and stopped his van before assaulting him. Both broke the law: the Indian who did not stop after the minor accident (it is illegal in the UAE to run away after an accident) and the Emirati who took the law into his own hands.

The prosecution will investigate the incident and decide if the case merits a court trial. The Indian driver has apparently declined to lodge a complaint, but the prosecution can take cognizance of the evidence and proceed with a trial. However, the evidence itself may come under legal scrutiny. The video was discreetly taken by a passerby who posted it on social networking websites. Under UAE cyber laws, it is illegal to take videos of people and posting them on websites. The Emirati’s family has lodged a police complaint against the person who took the video. The original video was taken down on Tuesday afternoon, but it re-emerged on several websites.

It is a unique case where the suspect, the victim and the eyewitness all broke the law. Should this assault case go to court, the prosecution’s case will hinge on a crucial piece of evidence — a video that was shot illegally.


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