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Bloke charged under UK terror law for refusing to cough up passwords

First they came for the activists and I did nothing…

By Iain Thomson, 18 May 2017

British police have charged a man under antiterror laws after he refused to hand over his phone and laptop passwords.

Muhammad Rabbani, international director of CAGE, was arrested at Heathrow in November after declining to unlock his devices, claiming they contained confidential testimony describing torture in Afghanistan as well as information on high-ranking officials. CAGE positions itself as a non-profit organization that represents and supports families affected by the West's TWAT (aka The War Against Terror).

On Wednesday this week, he was charged under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000: specifically, he is accused of obstructing or hampering an investigation by refusing to cough up his login details.

"On 20 November 2016, at Heathrow Airport, he did willfully obstruct, or sought to frustrate, an examination or search under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, contrary to paragraph 18(1)(c) of that Schedule," London's Metropolitan Police alleged. "He is due to appear in Westminster Magistrates' Court on 20 June."

If found guilty, Rabbani could face up to three months in prison and a fine of £2,500 (US$3,242). He has said he will fight the case and is hopeful of winning. He claims he has been stopped under Schedule 7 about 20 times and has always refused to hand over his passwords. However, it appears that the Met is now ready to test this case in court, so formal charges have been brought.

Schedule 7 was controversial when it was first introduced by the Blair administration. Back then it was claimed by the Labour government that it would be used only in extreme terrorism cases, but since then has been used plenty of times – most notably to hold the partner of Glenn Greenwald over the leaking of the Snowden archives.

What makes Schedule 7 rather tricksy is that no evidence is required to pull someone over for questioning under the law. Usually, Brit officers must have at least reasonable suspicion of a crime before collaring a suspect, but under these antiterror rules, they can hold and quiz people for up to nine hours with no evidence at all.

"I'm going into this eyes wide open and I'm not a victim, but I'm not a hero either," Rabbani said. "I do believe I am doing what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances in order to protect the privacy of a client." ®

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