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Indian American sues NY police

india Updated: Dec 09, 2007 04:38 IST
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A civil liberties group has sued the New York Police Department (NYPD) on behalf of an Indian student who was detained in July while photographing a subway station here.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed the suit on Thursday in the district court of Manhattan, alleging that police officers unlawfully handcuffed Arun Wiita, 26, a Columbia University graduate student.

Wiita was spotted using a digital camera near 207th Street and Tenth Avenue in Manhattan.

A resident of New Jersey, Wiita is seeking compensatory damages and reimbursement of legal fees.

"I was surprised and upset that I could be handcuffed on the street for taking a photograph," Wiita said. "What was really disheartening was that I knew this has probably happened before and that it could happen again to anyone."

"Wiita's arrest came within hours of his having embarked on a carefully planned 10-day project to photograph all 468 subway stations in New York," the lawsuit read.

"Though he was subsequently released without formal charges, Wiita was humiliated and confused by the arrest, and he believes that he was targeted in part because of his South Asian or Middle Eastern appearance," the lawsuit added. Wiita's mother is from India. He was born in the US.

Earlier this year, the police settled a suit brought by NYCLU on behalf of an award-winning documentary maker Rakesh Sharma, who was detained for filming with a handheld camera on a Manhattan street.

As a result, the mayor's office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting twice revamped its rules regarding the use of cameras on streets, parks or public property, tailoring them to apply only to potentially disruptive movie and television productions.

Police sources said officers question people photographing the city's rail infrastructure on "rare occasions", citing instances in which law enforcement officials have identified Iranian intelligence agents and suspected Pakistani terrorists taking photographs of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges.