x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai policeman jailed for posting video of Lionel Messi’s passport online

The 26-year-old Emirati, J M, pleaded guilty and said he was wrong to have uploaded the video of Messi’s passport to Snapchat via his smartphone.

Posting an online video of himself with football superstar Lionel Messi’s passport  has led to a policeman being jailed for a month. AFP
Posting an online video of himself with football superstar Lionel Messi’s passport has led to a policeman being jailed for a month. AFP

DUBAI // A policeman who posted a video of himself on social media holding Argentine footballer Lionel Messi’s passport has been sentenced to one month in prison.

The 26-year-old Emirati, J S M, attended his first hearing at Dubai Court of Misdemeanours on January 18 after being brought from his detention cell. He confessed to a charge of violating Messi’s privacy, but said it was only a joke.

He told presiding judge Raafat Yousuf that what he did was wrong and requested leniency. The judge ordered his release after his passport was seized.

The incident occurred on December 27 when J S M was in Dubai International Airport’s private jet area where he worked, to hand in a two-day sick note.

Prosecutors said he waited for the Barcelona FC footballer to arrive and tried to have his photo taken with him but was told he could not as Messi, who was recently named a global ambassador for Expo 2020, was exhausted from the flight.

Messi was in Dubai to receive the Player of the Year award at the Globe Soccer Awards.

The policeman noticed Messi’s passport on the passport control desk, so picked it up and shot a video of himself holding it.

The clip was posted on Snapchat with the caption: “This is Messi’s, he is here in Dubai, what do I do? Shall I burn the passport or just put it back! Ok Ok you can go!”

Police were alerted a day after the clip was posted online and apprehended J S M the same day.

J S M said he had permission from Messi’s bodyguard, who was stood next to the passport control desk.

“He was standing there so I spoke to him in English and asked him if I could take a picture of myself with the player’s passport and he said yes,” said J S M.

He said the passport control officer should not be held responsible for the incident as he had not seen what had happened. After uploading the clip to Snapchat, J S M said he deleted it.

“I have no idea how it got circulated. I was just kidding and had never done this thing with anyone else before. I was wrong and I promise I would never repeat such a behaviour,” said J S M, who has been with Dubai Police since 2007.

Emirati policeman M A, 31, said he was patrolling the private jet area when he saw J S M. “It was 4am when I saw him still present and my colleague asked him to go home, then my colleague and I left to resume our checks ahead of the plane landing,” said the officer.

M A said orders banning the use of mobile phones during working hours were clear to all, including the defendant. “I don’t know why he did that, he knows its not allowed. We all would love to have a picture with Messi but it’s not allowed,” he said.

The time J S M spent in detention will be deducted from his sentence.

A verdict was initially expected on January 27.