Three British tourists have accused police in Canada of racially profiling them after their pictures were plastered over the media amid fears they were behaving “suspiciously” in a shopping mall.
Mohammed Sharaz, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, was with his 14-year-old son, Salahuddin Sharaz, and a friend, Mohammed Kareem, during a visit to Vancouver, Canada
Both Sharaz and Kareem, from Manchester, suffer from a genetic eye condition known as etinitis pigmentosa, which can eventually lead to blindness, and had travelled to the country to receive eye surgery.
But last week they found themselves at the centre of a nationwide terror scare when pictures of them acting "suspiciously" were leaked to Canadian media by an unknown police "source".
On Thursday Vancouver police stated in a televised news conference that they were seeking more information about the "Middle Eastern looking men" spotted at the Pacific Centre shopping mall.
However, it transpires that the men were in fact using their phones to help with their poor vision, by using the camera’s zoom function.
The men allege that they were racially profiled by Canadian police after they were seen on CCTV using their phones in the shopping mall.
The men volunteered themselves to the authorities, and were cleared of any suspicious activity after speaking with officers.
"These guys can't even see! And you expect them to be pulling off something big," said Mohammed Sharaz to CBC news.
He continued: “My friend [Kareem], when he looks at anything head-on, he doesn’t see like me and you do. So he’ll take a picture or a movie and then later on when he gets back he zooms into it and he watches stuff. He takes pictures of anything and everything.”
Highlighting the racial profiling the trio believed was the cause of the incident, Kareem said: "Because of this terrorist issue, [people say] 'they got a beard,' that's why they think we're terrorists. But not everyone is the same, which we need to say. We are not Middle Eastern, we are Briton.”
The trio are now reportedly too scared to leave their hotel rooms for fear of harassment, and have not been out except for treatment.
The Vancouver police department has released an updated statement, saying: “All three men were cooperative with investigators and they had a very logical explanation regarding their behaviour. The investigation has conclusively determined that their actions were completely innocent.”
“Vancouver remains a very safe city and the public should have no concerns about shopping at Pacific Centre or attending any other public place.”
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