Maya Mirchandani, Wednesday, January 25, 2006 (New York):
Indian photographer Ram Rehman has filed a harassment case against New York police after his house was searched.
Barely 10 days ago New York Civil Liberties Union filed a similar case against New York police on behalf of Indian filmmaker Rakesh Sharma.
Unlike Sharma who was visiting New York, Rehman has been a resident of the city at the very same apartment for 26 years.
Rehman’s case involves a dispute with the landlord over termination of a lease.
Even as negotiations were on through lawyers, the landlord decided to call the police complaining falsely that his disturbed tenant was creating havoc on the building roof.
"An intimidation tactic against me by making this call to the police".
"My concern was that as a single man with a Muslim name in this country, especially in NY it has become a very serious thing to have any kind of interaction with the police like this," Rehman said.
Search without warrant
According to Rehman’s lawsuit, police entered and searched his apartment, took down his press details and his green card information without a warrant and without making clear what the charges against him were.
Rakesh Sharma’s lawyers say that such incidents are repeating themselves and its time the NYPD answered for its actions.
"The rules are supposed to be the same regardless of who you are, where you come from, what your religion is," said Donna Leiberman, Lawyer with New York Civil Liberties Union.
Sharma was questioned and held for six hours. He was searched and his passport was taken for filming with a hand held camera on the streets outside New York’s famous landmark Grand Central Station.
It is no secret that hundreds of Muslim men were deported soon after 9/11, many hundreds more illegally detained in high-security detention centers and barred from contacting families or even lawyers.
Neither Rehman nor Sharma are US citizens – a fact that could impede their attempt to confront the police department. But Rehman insists the US legal system is still the best route to take.
For its part, New York police has issued the same statement in response to both cases.
The chief of the police departments administrative law division has said that New York police are in the process of preparing response to the plaintiffs’ legal complaint.
However in this day and age it is obviously a priority in New York City to ensure safety.
Most people do not report cases out of fear. Whatever the outcome of these two cases, their significance is in the fact that at least people have begun to speak out.