Abu Dhabi // A senior judge has issued a strong rebuke to the police, telling officers they do not have the power to cross-examine suspects, present them with evidence or tell them they face charges.
Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Baseer's warning came during the trial of a policeman, SN, charged with abuse of power and coercive theft.
He was appearing yesterday at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance, accused of posing as a municipality inspector and ordering shopkeepers to pay him Dh1,000 to avoid a Dh10,000 fine for breaking hygiene laws.
The judge's rebuke came after one of the officers involved in the case presented a report on the interrogation to the court.
SN has been charged in three similar cases, relating to three shops. In yesterday's case, he is accused of taking Dh14,000 and an unspecified number of phone cards from an Indian shopkeeper in Musaffah.
When police raided his house, they found handcuffs and five shop licences.
However, the Chief Justice Abdul Baseer raised a number of questions about the investigation.
Under questioning, the police witness appeared unsure about details, repeatedly referring to his notes.
SN's defence lawyer objected to this, saying it was customary for a witness to testify without reading prepared testimony.
The judge said the policeman appeared to be "a witness who did not actually see anything".
He could not give the name of the shop owner who lodged the complaint, or the number of the licences or telephone cards allegedly seized from SN's house.
"As an interrogator, you should be aware of all these things before questioning the suspect," the judge told him. "Public liberty should not be compromised like this, fear God."
The judge then asked the witness to hand him the report he had prepared, a summary of the police report and the questions asked during interrogation.
On reading it, the judge objected to the way the way the interrogation had been conducted.
"We would like to send a strong message from the court through the Public Prosecution that the police should not conduct their interrogation this way," the judge said.
The officers had asked the suspect to "reply to what he was being charged with", he said. This, said Judge Baseer, "did not leave anything for prosecutors".
The police had asked very detailed questions, confronted the suspect with evidence and told him he faced charges.
That, said the judge, was a practice reserved exclusively for prosecutors and the court.
The public prosecutor told the court that members of his office had recently met representatives from police stations in the capital and raised the issue of interrogation procedures.
"There are violations," the prosecutor said.
The court adjourned the case until November 2 for another officer to testify.