Skip to main content

Cage director will appeal counter-terrorism search conviction

Muhammad Rabbani's lawyers say existing police powers do not sufficiently protect privacy
Muhammad Rabbani was ordered to pay £620 in legal costs but was given a conditional discharge (MEE/Osha Al-Mossallami)

The managing director of the British human rights organisation Cage will appeal against a conviction of wilfully obstructing police officers.

Muhammad Rabbani was convicted on Monday after a court heard that he refused to reveal the passwords for his electronic devices to police during an airport stop to protect the privacy of a client who claimed he had been tortured while in US custody,

He was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of wilfully obstructing police officers carrying out their duties under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act after being stopped for questioning at London's Heathrow Airport early in the morning on 20 November 2016 following a flight from Doha, Qatar.

Schedule 7 powers allow police officers to stop and question anyone passing through British airports to ascertain whether they are involved in terrorism and extend to asking those stopped for passwords or PIN codes to access electronic devices and to downloading material from them.

However, Rabbani said on Tuesday that he intends to appeal the conviction, which saw him ordered to pay court costs of $830 and granted a conditional discharge for 12 months.

“I will be appealing this decision. In reality, Schedule 7 discriminates and the result indicates that our only option is to change the law. This judgement confirms that a person can fall foul of Terrorism laws for protecting client confidentiality,” Rabbani said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added: “The principle of presumption of innocence, the principle of client confidentiality and the principle of personal privacy are all too important to surrender even with the threat of conviction.”

His lawyers plan to appeal on the grounds that existing police powers do not sufficiently protect privacy or legally privileged material. His solicitor Gareth Peirce described Monday’s verdict as a “mockery of the concept of due process”.

She said: “The only comfort in this outcome is that it exposes vividly how shoddy and shabby are the claims that Schedule 7 stops are carefully calibrated, proportionally applied measures that serve to protect national security. The reality is Mr Rabbani's experience boils down to having to run a capricious gauntlet of interference with every journey and with the Damocles sword of prosecution hanging over every stop.“