“I AM INNOCENT of these charges that have serious implications for journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders,” said Muhammad Rabbani, International Director of CAGE, the independent advocacy organisation.
Mr Rabbani was speaking after being charged at Bethnal Green police station on Wednesday, 17th May, with “wilfully obstructing or seeking to frustrate a search examination under Schedule 7 [of the Terrorism Act 2000]”. He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 20th June.
The charge arose out of events last November, when Mr Rabbani was detained by police at Heathrow airport as he returned to the UK. Police asked him to reveal the passwords to various electronic devices in his possession. One of the devices contained evidence from a torture survivor whom Mr Rabbani had been assisting with legal matters. Mr Rabbani did not have the survivor’s permission to release this information – so he did not reveal the passwords to the police.
Mr Rabbani stressed that he was not being accused of committing any crime or obstructing the police from collecting evidence of a crime when the police asked for his passwords. He had been asked for passwords on previous occasions and had not given them – and no further action had been taken. On this last occasion, it was the refusal to give the passwords itself which was regarded as a potential offence – one which could lead, if he were to be found guilty, to three months in prison.
Mr Rabbani revealed that he had been stopped more than 20 times while travelling in and out of the UK and that some 50,000 people are stopped in this fashion each year. He commented, “I’m going into this eyes wide open and I’m not a victim, but I’m not a hero either. I do believe I am doing what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances in order to protect the privacy of a client.”
•For more information about Mr Rabbani’s campaign, go to:
Read more about it:
•Facing prison to protect privacy – what others say
•Facing prison to protect privacy – Rabbani’s story