Eye on the prize? Abu Dhabi government officials caught spying on female coworkers

Published January 15th, 2015 - 01:06 GMT

Three government officials accused of invading the privacy of their female co-workers by placing CCTV cameras in the workplace, denied charges at the Court of Misdemeanours on Wednesday.

The General Director of a local authority, A.K., and the Al Ain-based branch manager, M.A., in addition to a Lebanese Information Technology (IT) expert, P.Y., are on trial for installing cameras to allegedly inappropriately monitor their female colleagues.

The first defendant’s lawyer, Ali Al Manna’i, insisted his client had no criminal intent to his actions and only installed the devices after reports of misconduct among the female employees in the Al Ain branch.

Upon consulting experts in the field of security, the lawyer said, A.K. proceeded to place the cameras near the reception area which is considered a public space, in order to maintain order and safety of the organisation.

Al Manna’i revealed his client had also consulted a legal expert before installing the devices and that a report from the forensics team shows that no explicit content was contained in the footage recorded.

A second lawyer who was also defending A.K. stated cameras were visible to staff members and were placed near exit signs that are usually monitored.

The second defendant, M.A.’s lawyer Fayza Mousa, told court that her client was asked to supervise the installation of the cameras after office hours. Additionally, the lawyer said he was using the smartphone to watch the footage in case he was required to and that it was a government-owned phone and so also was the laptop he used.

Mousa added there was no criminal intent or cooperation between her client and the first defendant to watch the women.

She also stated her client did not send any footage to A.K., and did not have a choice but to carry out the orders that were given to him via email by his superiors.

The lawyer also insisted her client breached no privacy as the cameras were not installed in private place such as a rest room or a bedroom and that the door to the customer service centre where the female employees work, is open to all.

Finally, the third defendant’s lawyer stated that the forensics lab reports show that the women were going about conducting regular behaviour at work and that P.Y. was only obeying direct orders from his boss that he could not go against, especially since there was no harm done to those caught on camera.

However, Public Prosecution argued that the alleged actions carried out by the defendants was in violation of Islamic values. Additionally, the first defendant confessed to giving out orders to install the cameras and he had downloaded clips from the footage onto his laptop and mobile phone — therefore criminal intent is apparent, the prosecutor argued.

The case has been adjourned until January 27 where the verdict will be announced.

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