UK airport authorities arrest human rights activist for not sharing his passwords

CAGE’s director and human rights activist Muhammad Rabbani is facing jail time.

The director of CAGE human rights organization, Muhammad Rabbani was returning from a trip abroad last year when he was stopped at the UK airport for not revealing his laptop and phone’s passwords to the authorities.

When asked, Rabbani told that he had been stopped on the basis of Section 7 that is part of UKs anti-terrorism law. He said that the authorities wanted him to reveal his passwords that could grant the officers access to his electronic devices. Nevertheless, he was reluctant to do so since he had sensitive and personal information stored in the devices.

Cage, which provides legal advocacy for those affected by British terrorism legislation, said Rabbani’s devices contained details about an “investigation into torture complicity by a UK ally.”

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Apparently, he was investigating a confidential human abuse case and had some data stored on his laptop and phone which he did not want to disclose to the officers. However, according to section 7, any person, whether or not they are British, can be stopped for questioning when departing or arriving at the UK airport.

Not the first time, says Rabbani

Rabbani also stated that he had been stopped like this before for up to 20 times, but it was only this time that he was asked to tell his password. According to reports, Rabbani was polite in refusing to reveal his password, but seemingly, this was not good enough.

He was questioned for about another three hours and was then found not complying with the authorities and was hence, arrested. Nevertheless, he got released on bail after nine hours. However, the game is not over yet, and Rabbani is to appear in front of court later this week. If the court finds him guilty, he can be arrested and put to jail for up to three months. In response, CAGE has launched an online campaign to support Rabbani.

Rabbani’s views

Rabbani is highly critical of the behavior that the UK officials have shown to him. According to him, section 7 has been abused a number of times with officials stopping Muslims and questioning them whenever they come and leave the UK.

Furthermore, CAGE and Rabbani are against having him getting arrested as he has not done anything wrong. In fact, the officials have themselves claimed that Rabbani had not committed any crime; rather, the only reason he is being arrested is that he refused to reveal his password.

Section 7 is probably one of the most biased pieces of laws that have been drafted since, under the section, anyone can be held guilty for not complying with the requests of the officials. Up till now, around 88% of the people coming from the minority groups were detained for questioning, and around five people were arrested.

Concerns over privacy

What is more worrisome about Section 7 is that no one knows as to why the officials ask for information that might be sensitive. Furthermore, what happens to the information once it is given? Such concerns should be raised so as to question the legitimacy of Section 7.

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Remember, a similar incident took place in 2015 when Alian Philippon, a Canadian citizen from Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec was detained by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) when he arrived from the Dominican Republic. Philippon was asked to unlock his phone which he refused and as a result, he was not only facing one-year jail time but also a fine up to 24,000 Canadian Dollars.

Also, the airports in the United States are already asking travelers for their social media login details. So watch out where you are traveling next.

 


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