The Right of Protest
Three Syrian students charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police officers at a Glasgow protest have been cleared after a senior Sheriff branded the police evidence against them “incredible and unreliable.”
The three accused, all brothers, were protesting in 2013 in Buchanan St against attacks on Syrian civilians by the Assad regime when they were detained and charged. With the Procurator Fiscal Depute alleging they had been involved in multiple “acts of disorder.” However after a three year legal ordeal the presiding judge, Sheriff McFarlane, ruled that the police actions in arresting them were unlawful and they had no case to answer.
The incident took place on 9 February 2013 with police claiming in court that they had intervened in a dispute between the demonstrators and a group of buskers. Officers testified that one of the brothers had became agitated and his aggressive actions, including “pointing his fingers and their faces and shouting,” forced them to detain him. However mobile phone video footage shown to the court showed, in the Sheriff’s words that it was the police that were being “loud and aggressive,” while the defendant was “docile and defensive.”
The video can be seen here:
The second video shown to the court also contradicted the police account of subsequent events. With the Sheriff ruling that this showed their actions after the initial arrest were “overzealous and disproportionate.” He also noted that while police had claimed the brothers had thrown themselves to the ground to resist arrest, the footage clearly showed them being forced down by the officers. Asked during his evidence what he had thought when police closed in on him one of the defendants said “I felt like I was being taken by Assad’s people.”
The second video can be seen here:
Ending his last judgment, as he his due to retire, Sheriff McFarlane concluded: “Had it not been for the existence of the videos there could have been a real prospect the accused may have been convicted,” adding that this would have been a “serious miscarriage of justice.” He then told the brothers they were free to go.
Before the incident the brothers had helped organise over 50 protests against the Assad regime in Glasgow. Since their arrest they have been none.