This week our international director Muhammad Rabbani appeared in Westminster Magistrate’s Court to defend the privacy of a torture victim after he was arrested for not divulging passwords at a Schedule 7 stop at Heathrow in November last year. Rabbani was protecting crucial information in a case implicating high ranking officials in torture.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot was constrained by the intrusive law to deliver a guilty verdict for obstructing a Schedule 7 search. Importantly she acknowledged that the issue of passwords and privacy was a fundamental one in our digital age and agreed that Rabbani was indeed carrying confidential material and that through his actions, was of good character and sound belief.
Such an outcome is a positive step in the campaign against this authoritarian law. It underlines the absurdity and injustice of Schedule 7 and demonstrates how far we have regressed when protecting client confidentiality and your privacy is deemed a ‘terrorism’ offence. The law allows for warrantless digital strip-searches, suspicionless stops, and mass profiling. As it stands, CAGE has no option but to appeal the verdict and challenge the law itself.
The media coverage of the outcome was overwhelmingly positive for CAGE. News outlets underscored the role that CAGE was playing, as the guardian not only of torture evidence, but also of the privacy and rights of all. Several journalists wrote about Rabbani’s courage and even more of them acknowledged the implications of the case for all those who pass through airports with confidential client information or private personal or professional data. Many raised the issue of the injustice of the Schedule 7 law.
The case also mobilised the community. The public gallery at court was packed, and over 100 supporters turned up outside the court on a Monday afternoon to show solidarity with Rabbani. Countless messages of support came from far and wide. Twitter and Facebook were alive with comments and we were overwhelmed by the goodwill shown towards CAGE. We would like thank all those who raised their voices in unison with ours.
Here are some of the reactions to the trial and verdict.
Wide appeal and support from the community:
Muhammad Rabbani has emerged 2 a warm reception from supporters outside Westminster Magistrates Court, after being found Guilty at his trial pic.twitter.com/PJDEJf1Vsf
— JammyDodger ? (@mrjammyjamjar3) 25 September 2017
Let that sink in. Protecting your privacy and that of a torture victim is a “terror” offence. @UK_CAGE https://t.co/FCLNyOSTOa
— Omran Belhadi (@o_belhadi) 25 September 2017
May Allah bless our brother Rabbani and elevate his status in both worlds. Was willing to go to jail for our #RightToPrivacy. #WithCAGE ☝?❤ https://t.co/KwWByaPTrF
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) 25 September 2017
And precisely why the tag of being called a ‘terrorist’ is nothing more than political gameplay. #RightToPrivacy https://t.co/1NCJbnJio0
— Abu Amaanah (@AbuAmaanah) 25 September 2017
Muhamad Rabbani from @UK_CAGE may have been found guilty. But it was a victory as he challenged an oppressive law that discriminates. pic.twitter.com/fG7adofnEI
— Asif (@aau004) 25 September 2017
#MuhammadRabbani ‘found guilty of wilfully obstructing police by refusing to hand over password’ @UK_CAGE – a mighty perversion of justice. https://t.co/Jlmqz5jxUW
— Afia Ahmed (@AfiaAhmed_) 25 September 2017
He was prepared to go to prison to protect client confidentiality
Muhammad Rabbani is a hero & was applauded & given gifts as he left court pic.twitter.com/4ZO4ycyo3J
— Az (@AzTheBaz) 25 September 2017
Muhammad Rabbani today just took one for the team. Found guilty of an unjust law, now is the time to repeal it. #RightToPrivacy for all. pic.twitter.com/om6U5sU4Xp
— Abu Amaanah (@AbuAmaanah) 25 September 2017
Case lost. Moral argument won.
Rabbani & @UK_CAGE standing up for our:#RightToPrivacy? #FreeToFly✈ #withCAGE✊?https://t.co/FGfnrA2wvZ
— Sa’id Totti Looch (@saidlooch) 25 September 2017
With a modern day civil rights hero. Muhammad Rabbani took on the government and held them to account. @UK_CAGE #PassWithPrivacy pic.twitter.com/JOO1Bc0saP
— Asim Qureshi (@AsimCP) 25 September 2017
The smile on Muhammad Rabbani’s face as he leaves court. Smiling at the face of injustice. Truly a brave man. #Schedule7 #PassWithPrivacy pic.twitter.com/Z6lRGViHpT
— Abdul Sami (@Ibn_Arjumand) 25 September 2017
How are you supposed to teach young people to trust in justice when someone who takes a principled stand is treated like this? #Rabbani
— ifhat smith (@issmith3) 25 September 2017
It was undoubtedly targeted @UK_CAGE man randomly checked?! Like em or loathe em they r fighting 4 our rights of privacy & confidentiality https://t.co/zuU2x3sCMF
— RepStar (@RepiakaMoni) 27 September 2017
One of the most popular NGO’s in France sent their well wishes:
Our duas for Muhammad rabbani from @UK_CAGE https://t.co/ww01U4ghPq
— BarakaCity (@Barakacity) 25 September 2017
Support from activists and journalists:
If #MuhammadRabbani is found guilty, that would mean the official end of #privacy in the #UK even for lawyers, doctors, researchers… https://t.co/PL9uox7HYy
— Yasser Louati (@yasserlouati) 25 September 2017
He got tired of having his own government demand his passwords every time he re-entered his own country, so he heroically refused to do it: https://t.co/K6xfW02MBW
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) 25 September 2017
In solidarity with Muhammad Rabbani who stands trial today for refusing to hand over passwords @UK_CAGE #Schedule7 https://t.co/f3kQVGt99R… https://t.co/9Yy0St3rL9
— Katy Sian (@theculturecraft) 25 September 2017
Guilty verdict in #Schedule7 trial but @UK_CAGE‘s Muhammad Rabbani is given a conditional discharge. Hardly a victory for security state!
— Netpol (@policemonitor) 25 September 2017
The UK’s airport powers under Schedule 7 are inherently abusive, & UK Govt exploits them in the most oppressive & abusive manner possible: https://t.co/slX4n9SXpq
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) 26 September 2017
Court’s decision is troubling… https://t.co/fIJPmZce8F
— CIJ (@cijournalism) 26 September 2017
We all owe thanks to this brave @CAGE official for resisting UK’s oppressive Schedule 7 law, which Govt still abuses https://t.co/408pvkVsby
— David Miranda (@davidmirandario) 25 September 2017
Conviction of Cage’s advocacy director an abuse of anti-terror legislation https://t.co/NjYloasvMy via @IndexCensorship
— Index on Censorship (@IndexCensorship) 27 September 2017
Definitely links between Rabbani case and the way the NCA tried to circumvent proper procedure w @laurilove‘s pwds https://t.co/RfhtM698UT
— Naomi Colvin (@auerfeld) 25 September 2017
Some serious surveillance law geekery going on in court 1. Shame there’s so few surveillance activists here to see it https://t.co/In7T57fgJP
— Ben Hayes (@drbenhayes) 25 September 2017
Community responses on Facebook:
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)