Saturday, September 18, 2010

Deliberate police harassment of Muslim lawyer

Expensive for the taxpayer

The high-profile Muslim lawyer Adam Houda has been arrested again while walking near his home in what he says is the most outrageous example yet of racial vilification, harassment and brutality by police.

The incident brings to five the number of times Mr Houda has been arrested or detained in the past decade, including a well-publicised occasion involving the former Bulldogs rugby league player Hazem El Masri.

None of the earlier incidents led to a conviction, instead they produced apologies and more than $150,000 in compensation from the NSW police.

At about 8pm on Thursday, Mr Houda was walking near his Yagoona home with his brother Bassam and friend Mohammed Hawa when they were asked for identification by two plainclothes police officers in an unmarked car.

When Mr Houda asked why, they said they were investigating a robbery and he fitted the suspect's description. "We were polite the whole time," Mr Houda said. "When it became too silly for words, I said 'Look, am I under arrest for anything?"'

When the more senior officer said no, Mr Houda said he began walking towards his home and was grabbed and handcuffed by the other officer, causing "excruciating pain" to his wrist. "It got to the point where I felt I was going to pass out," Mr Houda, 35, who suffers from a heart condition, said.

Mr Houda said five other police arrived and he was placed in the back of a paddy wagon, taken to Bankstown police station, locked in a cell without his medication and not allowed to call a lawyer or a support person.

The devout Lebanese Muslim, who has represented terrorism-accused clients such as Belal Khazaal and Izhar ul-Haque, has welts on his wrists and symptoms consistent with neuroplaxia in his left hand, his doctor, Jamal Rifi, said.

Mr Houda received $145,000 in compensation after he was wrongfully arrested at Burwood Local Court in 2000 and an apology after he and El Masri were surrounded by nine police in 2007 when they refused to provide identification outside a Regents Park cafe.

Thursday was the third time since 2007 that he has been detained while walking near his Yagoona home and he received a confidential payout after suing over the previous arrest, last year.

Mr Houda said he has audio recordings of Thursday's arrest and intends to sue the police and report it to the Police Commissioner, the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission.

Dr Rifi, who is on a community policing advisory group to the Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said his experience was similar to many others in Sydney's Lebanese Muslim community.

But the South West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Frank Mennilli, said Mr Houda did not comply with a lawful direction from police and would receive a summons "for not complying with a request to submit to a search and resist arrest".

"Police officers were conducting proactive patrols in the Yagoona area following a series of robberies involving knives," he said.


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