Social media activist given 45-day remand

Social media activist given 45-day remand
August 30 17:16 2016

A social media activist arrested on charges of “spreading hate” against the security forces had his remand extended Monday by a further 15 days after police claimed the 22-year-old posed a threat to the public.

Shamoon ‘Lucas’ jaleel has already spent 30 days in detention.

Defence counsel Ahmed Sinaz said his client was questioned only once in the past month, and over a single tweet in which Lucas posted a photo of a riot police officer who he claimed had unlawfully obstructed a tea party organised by the opposition.

“I will file a complaint against this policeman at the NIC,” Lucas had said on July 29, referring to the police watchdog body, the National integrity Commission.

Investigators had also asked Lucas if he was paid to post updates on Twitter, Sinaz said.

He went on to highlight what he called irregularities by the criminal court, saying the judge extended Lucas’ remand to allow police time to “conclude their investigation.” Remand hearings are closed to the public and the press.

He said: “This is not a constitutionally recognised ground for a remand extension. If we see that as a justification for remand extensions, there wouldn’t be a point of having a hearing, aiding the accused with legal representation.”

But “the same judge a few weeks back decided he was not a threat to public order. At the time the only danger was him absconding. This position changed yesterday for no particular reason,” he added.

The move has caused widespread outrage on social media.

An exhibition and a music show to celebrate Lucas’ work was held on Sunday.

The high court meanwhile threw out an appeal of Lucas’ remand last week. At the time, the defence said “spreading hatred” is not a crime, and argued that the police had failed to clarify which law he had contravened.

Sinaz also presented to the court some 200 tweets, which he claimed were more critical of the police, and asked why police had failed to arrest the individuals behind the posts.

In response the police submitted a tweet and a retweet from Lucas’ profile; the first likened police officers to a streak of tigers and the second reportedly read that police officers should be lynched.

But the high court on August 23 said they saw no reason to overturn the lower court’s ruling. The police had submitted sufficient evidence to keep Lucas in remand, judges ruled.

Lucas, who has more than 15,000 followers on Twitter, was arrested days before the ruling party-dominated parliament approved a new law re-criminalising defamation as well as content and speech that threaten national security, breach social norms and Islamic tenets.