Man on trial for taking photos of US Embassy in Abu Dhabi

A Syrian man has pleaded not guilty to illegally taking pictures of the US Embassy in Abu Dhab, saying he was photographing the Adnec building instead.

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ABU DHABI // A Syrian man has pleaded not guilty to illegally taking pictures of the US Embassy. The man, identified as RA, 29, was arrested after embassy guards saw him framing shots of the nearby Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre with his mobile phone. He told the Federal Supreme Court yesterday he was taking pictures of the Capital Gate Tower and not the embassy.

His lawyer, Fadal al Mahboub, argued that the wide availability of photographic technology made his client's photos irrelevant. But Chief Justice Shahab al Hamadi said: "It is a federal law that taking pictures of prohibited areas is a criminal offence. If he did not have prior permission, then the court can only take that into account." The Syrian was leaving the embassy district in his vehicle when he decided to pull over and take a picture of the oddly shaped Adnec building. The embassy district contains trilingual signs warning people against taking pictures.

He was stopped by the embassy's security guards and police were called. He was arrested and has been detained for 36 days. His phone was confiscated and the photos were submitted as evidence. "I am looking at a picture that shows the [Adnec] building but also half of the American Embassy," Justice al Hamadi said.