Campaign chief guilty of terror offences for not handing over passwords

Mohammad Rabbani outside Bethnal Green Police station. Pic: Cage

The director of advocacy group Cage has been convicted for terrorism offences after refusing to hand over his mobile phone Pin to police.

Muhammad Rabbani, 36, who lives in Bethnal Green, was stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act at Heathrow Airport in November last year.

After returning home from a wedding in Doha, he refused to give his Pin or the password to his laptop, saying he had been stopped many times under the schedule before and had never been required to give these details.

Rabbani, who has vowed to launch an appeal, was sentenced to 12 months’ conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £620 fine at Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday.

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is used by the police to stop and question a person in order to determine whether they are concerned in terrorism.

Rabbani said he had highly confidential information on his device and that handing it to police would be a breach of his “personal and professional” privacy.

Giving evidence on Monday, he said that he had a large volume of documents relating to a Qatari client allegedly tortured for over a decade in the US on his devices.

“There were around 30,000 (documents), which I was especially uncomfortable handling and I felt an enormous responsibility to try and discharge the trust that was given to me,” he said.

But the judge rejected his defence, finding he had taken a “calculated risk” in not providing the information despite being warned of the consequences by police.

Mohammad Rabbani outside Westminster Magistrates Court. Pic: Cage

The court heard that Rabbani refused to tell officers what he did for a living or give out his Pin saying “it won’t help you in any way” and that it breached his privacy.

PC Tariq Chaudhry, the officer who conducted the search, said that Schedule 7 gives officers their right to stop and search people “with or without suspicion”.

Rabbani is international director of Cage – an independent advocacy organisation that monitors the way security operations and anti-terror laws affect the Muslim community.

Speaking outside court, Rabbani said: “I was prepared from the outset to pay the ultimate price, even if that meant imprisonment.

“At no point was I under suspicion and this was a matter of being profiled at the airport. There are important implications for our collective privacy as Schedule 7 acts as a digital strip search,” he said.

He added that what would be the first of a number of legal challenges indicated that the discriminatory law that must be changed, and that Cage had “won the moral argument”.

“I took the decision not to raise the details of an important torture case before my arrest and ultimately I have been convicted of protecting the confidentiality of my client,” he said.

“If privacy and confidentiality are crimes, then the law stands condemned.”

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Today’s verdict is an important one. It’s crucial that police are able to use the legislation that exists to help keep the public safe.

“Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism and we are committed to ensuring the power is used appropriately and proportionately, as it was in this case,” he said.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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