Thursday, 22 August 2013

On Schedule 7 - demand to be arrested

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 has been in the news a lot of late, what with the detention and interrogation of David Miranda, partner of the journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow under Schedule 7. Police and "officials" were interested in Greenwald's stories on NSA surveillance of absolutely everybody.(Nothing to do with "terrorism" of course, other than state terrorism on a huge scale.) Malcolm Rifkind was wheeled out to defend the use of Schedule 7 on a BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and appeared to dig himself a hole of Spycatcher proportions.

I came across Schedule 7 Terrorism Act before. it was the subject of a talk at a FITWATCH conference I attended back in 2011. Speakers told how people who were active in local community centres seemed to be singled out for intimidation under Schedule 7 based purely on their ethnicity (and the fact that British residents with family connections elsewhere tend to go abroad more.) What follows is an extract from my notes on that conference.

Zin Derfoufi of the Federation of Islamic Student Societies drew our attention to the little-known but frequently used Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. "They" can stop you without reasonable suspicion at ports and airports and the Eurostar international stations entering or leaving the UK, but it’s also been used on people stopped in the waiting areas who aren’t actually going abroad.

M15 have been approaching Somali people active with the Kentish Town Community Centre and who are going abroad, they’ve been doing this for a while. The people who stop them on their way out of the country tell them to be informers on others in the community, They are told that if they don’t inform for them, they will tell “other countries that they’re terrorists.”

The Kentish Town Community Centre people went public a few years ago, it was all over the Independent, and that made M15 (or whoever it really was) back off for a while, but some intimidation using Schedule 7 still continues.

Zin says that under Schedule 7 they can hold you for up to nine hours and take DNA samples, and you have no right to silence, you have to respond to your Schedule 7 interrogators. And they can question you while your lawyer is still on the way, they don’t have to wait from them to arrive. They can share the results of their interrogation with any agency, including law enforcement agencies abroad.

A (then) relatively recent FOIA request revealed that up till then, there had been over 10,000 Schedule 7 stops, resulting in only 43 convictions. Most people convicted after a Schedule 7 stop get three convictions on separate, technical offences, so that probably means they’ve convicted around 15 people based on such stops.

More confident and experienced activists, when told they had to respond to Schedule 7 interrogation and had no right to silence and very few other rights, challenged their captors to arrest them, which would then automatically confer Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1986) rights to silence and to a lawyer. This was usually enough to get them released immediately. (You are “detained” under Schedule 7, not yet arrested.) Zin has had so many stops at the hands of police for so many different things that he’s now an expert at dealing with it. When anti-terror police stop him these days, such stops result in the anti-terror police dropping him off where he wants to go, whereupon they say, “Please don’t sue me.”

The conference also heard from Deniz Arbet of the Kurdish Federation. According to Deniz, since 2010 M15 has been targeting the management committee members of the community centre where he’s active. Members have been stopped at airports under Schedule 7 and held for longer and longer, first for an hour, now up to seven hours at a time. (Extract from my 2011 notes ends.)

* A citizen journalist returning to the UK from covering an international anarchist conference in Switzerland was also among those detained under Schedule 7 this August. The event in Switzerland had been "educational and festive" in nature, and Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officers (SO15, the unit which has subsumed the "domestic extremism" units) were involved in the questioning, which was reportedly along the lines of, "What would you do if someone raped your mother?"

* The National Union of Journalists recently appealed for information from any journalists who had been stopped under Schedule 7 while going to do work abroad or returning from work abroad. The Freelance's appeal (linked above) repeated advice to demand "they" arrest you under a named charge.

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