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
— Omran Belhadi (@o_belhadi) 25 September 2017
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) 25 September 2017
— Abu Amaanah (@AbuAmaanah) 25 September 2017
— Asif (@aau004) 25 September 2017
— 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
— Abu Amaanah (@AbuAmaanah) 25 September 2017
— Sa’id Totti Looch (@saidlooch) 25 September 2017
— Asim Qureshi (@AsimCP) 25 September 2017
— 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
— RepStar (@RepiakaMoni) 27 September 2017
One of the most popular NGO’s in France sent their well wishes:
— BarakaCity (@Barakacity) 25 September 2017
Support from activists and journalists:
— 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
— Katy Sian (@theculturecraft) 25 September 2017
— 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
— David Miranda (@davidmirandario) 25 September 2017
— Index on Censorship (@IndexCensorship) 27 September 2017
— 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.)