Anissa and three protection claimant girlfriends were arrested mid-January walking in the streets of Lo Fu Shan. Her boyfriend came to Vision First to report the incidents after the police charged them for working illegally despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Anissa is Indonesian and has a ten year-old son living with her mother. On that morning, she was bringing a mobile phone for her son to a friend who was flying back to Jakarta.
Dressed in her good clothes (evidence that she was not going to work) and holding her Sunday handbag, Anissa was walking down a public road when the police pounced. It was 10:30 in the morning and this was raid to net illegal workers. Maybe achievement records required a success. Anissa counted sixteen officers swooping down on the street to arrest the four ladies. She was terrified and didn’t understand what was going on and, most importantly, what she had done wrong.
Had Anissa’s friend arrived on time, she wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately her friend was late and her phone was switched off. The ladies might have been guilty of loitering in a public place, but they were certainly not working or coming out of a place of work as the police accused them. Was this misperception … or entrapment?
“Come into the car. You are working!” the officers shouted, pulling them aside. The scared ladies were pushed into a van and threatened with long prison sentences if they denied the charges. Anissa professed her innocence as best she could amid much adrenaline. At the police station there was no interpreter. Her statement was clear, “I was not working. I was meeting a friend”. But nobody listened.
At the police station she pointed out she was wearing good clothes on her way to meet friends. The officers pounded the desk and shouted. She noted there was no evidence. The officers shouted louder to intimidate and one threw a ballpoint pen at her. They wanted her to sign an admission of charges. Anissa’s fear turned into indignation. She had heard about entrapment, but couldn’t believe it was her.
Anissa pointed out that nobody goes in their Sunday clothes to shift garbage in a recycling plant – the only job for refugee ladies. She insisted she was walking around waiting for her friends and had not been inside any compound. The police were out to win! The four ladies were kept in custody without bail and sent to Shatin court to face charges. Undaunted by police threats, they all pleaded not guilty.
The judge didn’t bother to listen to them. The duty lawyer said nothing in the ladies’ defense and made no effort to understand why they insisted on their innocence. Anissa asserted, “I was not working. How can I admit that I was working? The police have no proof because I was only walking on the road”. The four ladies repeated the straightforward facts of that morning: they were on their way to visit friends.
Later, the duty lawyer visited them in Tai Lam prison and asked for evidence of their defense. But how can you prove what you didn’t do? The duty lawyer said the police have proof – now it gets interesting – and they can be jailed for more than 22 months if they don’t plead guilty for a shorter sentence. It appears that the lawyer is seeking an expeditious resolution to avoid a trial in which these ladies innocence could be proven.
Vision First is gathering evidence and preparing to defend these four victims of police entrapment.