UK Activist Charged After Refusing to Hand Police Passwords

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A man has been charged by the Metropolitan Police after refusing to hand over his laptop and mobile phone passwords when questioned at Heathrow Airport.

Muhammad Rabbani is international director at Cage, an advocacy organization which claims to “empower communities impacted by the War on Terror.”

He claimed to be unable to provide police access to his devices as they contained “crucial evidence taken from a torture survivor” which he didn’t have permission to share.

Cage outreach director, Moazzam Begg, spoke of the “constant harassment” of Muslims at airports by UK police using Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

“At the core of this issue is the protection of crucial evidence of torture, the key to holding high ranking officials accountable for an international crime. This will be a landmark case that will test the rule of law and justice in the ‘War on Terror’,” he said in a statement.

“I know what it is like to be forced to give your password to the authorities. In Bagram, I was tortured into surrendering my password. My colleague Rabbani was safeguarding vital and sensitive testimony, given to him by a victim of torture. Considering both the US and British governments have been found complicit and responsible for the torture and abuse of hundreds of individuals, it is perfectly right that Rabbani does everything he can to ensure these crimes are accounted for.”

The police claim Rabbani “willfully obstructed, or sought to frustrate, an examination or search” under Schedule 7.

First introduced by the Blair government in 2000, this controversial law allows UK cops to pull a suspect in for questioning for up to nine hours without needing any grounds for suspicion.

As a result, activists argue, it’s regularly used by police and immigration officers in a discriminatory fashion.

In the US, the handing over of passwords is voluntary at the moment. However, there could be plans afoot to force anyone arriving at the border to do so, with the option of declining entry to those who refuse.

Cage itself has been on the receiving end of criticism from leading terror experts.

“At the very least Cage are guilty of sloppy thinking and very unwise language,” the government’s former independent reviewer of terror legislation, Lord Carlisle, is quoted as saying.

"Before they can command any credibility from the wider community, they should make it clear that they reject the murder by ISIL of Christians and of Muslims who disagree with their views, and that they reject beheading and burning people alive.”

Rabbani will now appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 20 June.

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