Clarity needed on anti-photo laws: judge

Prosecutors should clarify the law regarding taking photographs at high profile sites around Abu Dhabi after two people appear in court charged with taking photos of Yas Marina Circuit.

Tourist visit Emirates Palace Hotel.
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ABU DHABI // A senior judge yesterday ordered prosecutors and police to clarify whether it was against the law to take photos at Yas Marina Circuit.

"As a rule, a person is allowed to take photographs anywhere unless there is a sign stating that it is illegal, or unless it is customarily known that it is illegal to take photographs in the area," Chief Justice Shehab al Hammadi told prosecutors in the State Security Court.

Two Bangladeshi residents of Abu Dhabi, KM and SM, appeared before the court charged with illegally taking photographs at the motorsport racetrack. The two men are free on bail.

Chief Justice al Hammadi asked them if they had seen any signs prohibiting photography, and they replied that they had not.

The Chief Justice asked the prosecutors if there was a sign at the venue, a premier tourist attraction, indicating that photography wads banned.

"I do not know," the prosecutor said. "I will check with the person who wrote the report."

The judge then ordered prosecutors and police to clarify the issue.

It is the fourth such case to come before the State Security Court recently, underscoring ambiguity about the legality of photography in the capital. In each case, those prosecuted said they had not seen any signs indicating a ban on photography. Prosecutors insist signs were in place.

An Iranian visitor to the UAE, RAS, was sentenced to a month in prison last week for taking a photo close to the Presidential Palace in Ras al Akhdar, near the Corniche. He told the court he had not seen any warnings against photography.

When The National visited the area yesterday there was a sign on the wall of the palace. The red placard, about half a metre wide, was placed on a wall behind trees. The sign reads: "No trespassing, no photography", in Arabic.

According to his cousin, RAS had been visiting relatives in Sharjah and was advised to visit Abu Dhabi, especially the Corniche area. He was walking behind the Emirates Palace hotel towards the beach, his cousin said, and was taking photographs along the way. It was hard for him to notice the sign, the cousin said.

Prosecutors say RAS took the photograph from the roundabout between the hotel and the Presidential Palace. He has been in jail since he was arrested about three months ago.

A Japanese man was arrested two months ago for taking photographs of electrical "machines and equipment" at the Khalifa Industrial Zone in Taweelah, near the Abu Dhabi border with Dubai.

Last year a UAE resident was arrested and charged with photographing military installations near Abu Dhabi island after he stopped near the Sheikh Khalifa bridge to take a picture of the sunset.

All those accused admitted taking photographs but denied any criminal intent.