Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Men Whose Photos Were Published by Vancouver Media Feared Public Attacks

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Men Whose Photos Were Published by Vancouver Media Feared Public Attacks

Article excerpt

Men in mall photos feared public attacks

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VANCOUVER - Two men and a teenager labelled "suspicious" because they were taking photos of a Vancouver mall said they feared being attacked on the street after local media published their images.

Mohammed Sharaz is visiting from Manchester, England, so that his 14-year-old son and friend can receive specialized treatment for visual disabilities. The two take lots of photos in order to zoom in later and see the sights more clearly, he said.

"My son is registered blind, and now when he goes back to school and somebody looks at this picture, his face is clear as day. They're going to pick on him and say, 'Oh, this is you,'" Sharaz said on Saturday.

"It's going to be very difficult for him to get on with the rest of his life. That's the only thing I'm concerned about."

The incident began Thursday evening after Vancity Buzz, a local news and culture website, published an article saying that police were looking to speak with three men after they were spotted taking photos of entrances and exits at Pacific Centre mall. The website said it obtained an internal police memo.

The article included surveillance photos of the trio without blurring their faces and described them as "Middle Eastern," as did the memo. The images quickly went viral.

Sharaz said he saw the photos on Friday morning and called police several times before they agreed to visit them at the offices of the doctor that is treating his son and friend.

"I was hoping to do a press conference with a police chief, because I thought that's how it works," said Sharaz with a chuckle. "I thought, I'll sit next to him, and say 'Look, mistaken identity,' and everyone's assured there's no issue."

Instead, police sent out a news release later Friday that said they had spoken with the men, who had a "logical explanation" for taking photos and their actions were "completely innocent."

"Just saying it's a 'logical explanation,' it leaves it open to questioning," said Sharaz, though he added he doesn't blame police. …

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