Subject: UK: "Now We Are All Terrorists" - SLP Youth


A personal account of harrasment and arrest under the auspices of the New
Labour PTA from a SLP Youth member, published in the current issue of Spark,
journal of the Socialist Labour Youth.

>Now we are all Terrorists
>Fahim Ahmed, Ealing Southall CSLP
>Since the introduction of the Terrorism Bill in Parliament back in 1999 I
>have followed the debate surrounding the new legislation with avid
>interest. As a Marxist-Leninist I have a political interest in the
>clampdown on Irish freedom-fighters and domestic 'subversives', from
>liberal peace protestors to anti-fascist, anti-capitalist demonstrators,
>and as a budding criminal defence lawyer I have a professional interest in
>the practical application of the law.
>These two interests converged on 19 December 2001 when I was 'detained' by
>Special Branch under the new legislation for the purpose of 'examination',
>arrested, held for 17 hours, interrogated and tortured through repeated
>forcible attempts at taking my fingerprints. Eventually I was released on
>bail, to return on 18 February to find out if I will be charged with any
>offences. The cuff-marks remain on my wrist and the psychological marks
>remain on my mind as I write this report one month after the actual event.
>I had been in Belgium attending a massive trade union demonstration against
>the EU on 13 December, and the latest big anti-capitalist demonstration on
>14 December, both in Brussels. I returned on the Eurostar on 19 December
>and was checked by French customs on the train before it went into the
>tunnel. There were dark-suited British officers checking people on the
>train once it was officially in the UK, and I assumed that they were
>customs as well. An officer approached me, showed me a Metropolitan Police
>badge and asked to see my passport. I asked him what he was doing and he
>explained that he was a member of Special Branch and was doing routine
>anti-terrorism checks. I showed him my passport and he continued on his
>way. I thought nothing more of it, but when I got off the train at Waterloo
>at 4.30pm, the same officer was waiting for me before the arrivals area.
>He approached me and said: "Mr Ahmed I'm detaining you under the Terrorism
>Act, come with me." I could hardly believe it! I had thought about what a
>fuss I would make if I ever found myself in trouble with the police, but I
>never imagined I would be targeted as a 'terrorist'. I asked the officer
>his name and he told me: "DS Geoffrey Singleton." I wrote it down
>immediately and followed him into a room there in Waterloo station. He sat
>me down and immediately began asking me questions about who I was, where I
>had been, where I was going and what I was doing. I began answering his
>questions thinking I was being interviewed under the Police and Criminal
>Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which guarantees criminal detainees rights to
>legal advice, silence, and a standard of treatment specified in the Codes
>of Practice. Little did I know I was actually being 'examined' under
>Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (TA), which I later learnt is a piece
>of legislation that makes a mockery of the 'rule of law' and civil rights,
>which exist only in theory.
>After a few general questions he began asking me about my support for the
>Intifada - he knew I was a supporter because I was wearing a badge which
>had a Palestinian flag for a background, and the words 'End the Occupation,
>Support the Intifada' in the foreground. I explained that I had been active
>in the Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign, having meetings and handing
>out leaflets (join PSC, go to or call 020 7700
>6192). Unsatisfied with my answer he asked the question again, at which
>alarm bells started ringing.
>I am used to representing people in police stations and when an officer
>repeats a question which has been answered, it's usually my cue to say,
>'You've had an answer officer, please move onto the next question.' But
>now, here I was, in the custody of Special Branch under the Terrorism Act,
>being questioned when I had already given an answer. I asked him to clarify
>what exactly he wanted to know and he repeated the question again, at which
>point I said: "I'm not answering any more questions, no comment." He asked
>me where I live and I repeated: "No comment." He then asked for my
>passport, which he had already seen on the train. I handed it over and told
>him that the address on the passport was my address, knowing that refusal
>to supply an address gives rise to a general power of arrest. I then asked
>if I had the right to legal advice, I was told that I had none. DS
>Singleton looked at me scornfully and left the room. I had been there no
>more than five minutes and things were already getting tense.
>Another officer came in and began searching my large rucksack. He also
>searched my jacket. He then asked me to stand up so that he could body
>search me. I was alarmed and asked him why he wanted to do that. He told me
>not to worry and that he was only going to pad me down. It was my turn to
>repeat the question, so I again asked him why and what he was looking for.
>He looked confused, as though no one had ever objected to being frisked,
>and said that he had the power to search me and that I was just making
>things difficult. I explained to the man that I was not minded to being
>physically searched by police officers because I found it undignified and
>degrading, and that I would gladly turn out my pockets. He persisted, so I
>asked him to explain his reason for wanting to search me and he stated that
>I might have something on me that could be used to injure himself or
>another officer!
>I told the officer that I had got off the Eurostar expecting to go straight
>home, that I had no idea that I would be sitting in that room, and that I
>certainly had no intention to do him any harm. I stated further that I
>would be prepared to listen to any 'reasonable suspicion' he had formed as
>to whether I had anything dangerous on me, and that if it was genuine I
>would reconsider. Of course, he had no real reason to search me, and so he
>became frustrated. He told me that I would be searched whether I liked it
>or not, and left the room.
>Having been there for an hour I was handed a 'Notice of Detention' which
>outlined the particular legislation under which I was being held. It stated
>that I had the right to have someone informed of my detention and to
>consult a solicitor! I studied the notice and added it to the papers I had
>compiled detailing the events so far, the names of officers who had given
>them and the warrant numbers of those that refused to tell me their names.
>Next I asked to use the toilet but was refused on the grounds that I might
>dispose of something or produce a weapon! 25 minutes later I was allowed to
>use the loo with supervision, after which I requested my rights.
>After I made my first phone call I was told that I was being arrested for
>failing to provide address details! I immediately pointed out that the
>officers had my passport, which had my address on it, and that I had told
>them so when I handed it over. Two minutes later I was told that I was to
>be arrested for refusing to submit to a body search! It was obvious that
>they were looking for an excuse to arrest me, although I was glad that I'd
>be taken to proper police station where I would have certain rights in
>custody that I was familiar with.
>So, I waited another 45 minutes for uniformed officers to turn up, handcuff
>me, walk me through Waterloo station like a criminal, and take me in a
>squad car no more than 200 metres down the road to Kennington Road copshop.
>I was booked into custody, and whilst I was waiting I gave informal legal
>advice to two detainees who were being pursued for drugs and dishonesty
>offences. Eventually I was spoken to by the custody sergeant, to whom I
>explained the false pretences on which I had been arrested, but he had
>already authorised my detention and was not amenable to my objections. I
>requested my custody record so that I may note my objections on it. He
>refused, saying that the record was for him not me, at which I asked for
>the writing materials to which I was entitled. He then had me searched,
>which I allowed knowing that he had a 'legitimate' reason (my safety) as
>distinct from the original search situation where there was none.
>I was allowed to speak to a solicitor who said he'd be out soon, and then I
>was put into a cell to wait for my legal advice. Two hours went by and
>eventually I was let out of the cell to speak to my brief, who turned out
>to be an Irishman named Adams! He was not the guy I had spoken to on the
>phone and admitted to knowing nothing about the terrorism legislation under
>which I was being held. I sympathised with him since I knew nothing about
>it either, but the right to legal advice is useless if the system cannot
>provide you access to someone who knows the law in that area.
>We were told that I would not be 'interviewed' under PACE in relation to
>the offence for which I had been arrested; rather I would be 'examined'
>under Schedule 7 of the TA. I had no right to silence, and in fact I was
>under a duty to provide the examining officer any information he requested!
>Further, if I failed to comply with this duty I would be committing an
>offence for which I could be imprisoned for up to three months, and/or
>receive a fine of up to 2,500!
>Following legal advice I decided that I would have to answer questions to
>avoid the possibility of an unnecessary conviction for a terrorist offence,
>which wouldn't look very good on future job applications and may stop me
>from qualifying as a solicitor in future. I was worried about the prospect
>of a police interview without the right to silence, since I knew that the
>only way for the police to get evidence where there is none is through the
>mouth of the 'suspect'. I did not know what they wanted to ask me about, my
>solicitor got minimal disclosure and I was worried about questions being
>sprung on me without my knowing what sort of allegations I was actually
>Anyway, we went into an interview room, where tapes were put in the machine
>and the examination was begun. I was asked very vague, open questions,
>mainly in relation to visits to Libya and Algeria, which regular Spark
>readers will be aware of. I explained to the officers that I had been
>attending youth conferences and festivals officially organised by the
>governments of those countries, in an attempt to foster positive relations
>between our respective countries. Then they asked me why I had been to
>Pakistan, and I told them that I, like many other second-generation
>immigrants in the UK, had family in Pakistan, and that I had been visiting
>Pakistan since childhood for this purpose. I had to work hard to get the
>examining officer to narrow down his questions, because I was used to
>police officers asking detainees about their involvement in specific
>offences, whereas this 'examination' seemed to be an intelligence gathering
>exercise at my expense. Eventually the questions were exhausted and the
>tape buzzer sounded before I had a chance to add my own comments to the
>tape. The officers refused to put another tape in, and that was the end of
>It was now 1am. I was fatigued from travelling and being locked up, and I
>expected that a decision would be made and I would be released. I had no
>idea how I would get back to West London from Waterloo, as I was now in
>serious danger of missing the last tube. However, this was not a
>consideration for the police. What Special Branch were concerned with was
>I was told that I would be fingerprinted, and my solicitor discovered that
>they wanted three sets of extremely detailed fingerprints. I noticed that a
>female in casual clothes who had been hanging about Kennington custody was
>actually a fingerprint specialist present simply to ensure the extraction
>of quality prints from me. I knew that the procedure required my written
>consent, and I also knew that consent could not be withdrawn once it had
>been given. More importantly though, they wanted my fingerprints before
>even charging me with an offence! I hadn't done anything wrong; they were
>not even alleging that I had done anything wrong, yet they wanted my prints
>for no apparent reason. The last nail in the coffin was the fact that they
>wanted to then keep those prints FOREVER.
>I refused to consent to giving my fingerprints, and the police used all
>sorts of tactics over the course of the next four hours to get me to change
>my mind and submit to their will. Initially I was told that a
>Superintendent would come in the morning to authorise the use of force. I
>argued that I was only allowed to be held 'as long as is necessary', and
>that the fact that I was still there was unnecessary, but being kept in a
>cell until the morning was completely out of order. I told them to bring
>the Superintendent immediately. The custody sergeant refused, saying that
>the Super was unavailable until morning. So I told him to get on the phone,
>but the objection came back that the authorisation had to be marked on the
>custody record and that the Super therefore had to be there in person. I
>had to quote the law at this custody sergeant, and told him that verbal
>authorisation was permitted as long as it was written down as soon as
>practicable afterwards. There was a moment of silence in Kennington custody
>and then the sergeant got on the phone.
>Whilst this was a victory for me in terms of speeding up the process, I had
>only succeeded in getting the police to obtain authority to use force
>against me! The phone call lasted no more than 90 seconds and the police
>had their 'authority'. I was then taken by the large middle-aged jailer to
>the fingerprint area. I allowed him to wash, dry and ink my hands, and as
>he moved my right index finger onto the print form I deliberately smudged
>the print. He looked at me disdainfully and the process was repeated. I
>politely explained that he was assaulting me, and that it would be
>impossible for him to take fingerprints from me whilst I was unwilling. He
>said something along the lines of, 'We'll see about that,' and then put
>handcuffs on my wrist, using them as a clamp. The hard metal cut into my
>skin causing pain, he grabbed the middle part of the cuff and tried again
>to take my print. I held my ground and he failed. He then went off in a
>huff and came back with another officer. The two of them held me, jostled
>me and manhandled me into position, and attempted to take my prints by
>force for another 40 minutes. After they had spoiled a dozen print forms
>they decided to put me in a cell for while, presumably so that they could
>scratch their heads about what to do next.
>The next hour and a half in that cell was an extremely testing time for me.
>Whilst initially I thought the situation would be interesting - an
>intellectual exercise in the rights of citizens against the power of the
>state authorities - I realised that the situation I was in was dangerous
>and oppressive. The police really had authority to use force on me. My
>wrist and arm was swollen and bruised from their aggressive actions. I had
>no idea how long I would be in this cell, or what they had in store for me
>next. The police attitude so far had been, 'You will be here for as long as
>it takes.' This was no joke.
>At 3.30am there was a knock on the cell door and I was pleased to see an
>Inspector. I thought she would be releasing me, but she took me back to the
>fingerprint area where eight large male officers were standing waiting for
>me. This time they really put the pressure on and soon I was shouting and
>screaming in pain. At one point I allowed myself to lean completely on an
>officer as I expected my knees to give way. They applied so much pressure
>on my fingers and arm that the pain, coupled with that of the cuffs on my
>wrist, meant I could hardly stand. I'm not sure exactly how long that went
>on, but the jailer stopped the proceedings partly out of frustration and
>partly because the cuts on my wrist were becoming too obvious. At that
>point I gave those officers a speech on human and civil rights, and told
>them that I would be mad to hand over three sets of prints to Special
>Branch, for them to keep forever, for no apparent reason. I told them
>people like the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four had spent decades in
>jail because Special Branch had deliberately stitched them up for terrorist
>offences they did not commit. I refused to give my fingerprints on
>principled grounds, and I did not submit to their will.
>At 5am I was taken to the medical room to see the police doctor who
>sympathetically listened to my story, but was unable to do anything other
>than make a thorough note of my injuries. After that I was told by the
>Inspector that in the morning the Territorial Support Group (TSG) would
>arrive, that they were a special anti-terrorist force, and that they had
>methods of forcing prints from non-compliant prisoners, and that if my
>fingers or wrist were broken it would be MY OWN FAULT!
>I could hardly believe that an Inspector was threatening me with broken
>bones. I retorted that broken bones would constitute unreasonable force and
>that I would sue her personally as well as the Met in general. In any case,
>I was put back in a cell and slept from 5.30-8.30am when I was woken by the
>civilian jailer with breakfast. It wasn't too bad but I had little
>appetite. Having been in plenty of police stations, this was the first time
>I had woken up in one. I had had little sleep and was not relishing the
>prospect of being tortured by the TSG.
>Just before 9am I requested the jailer to let me speak with a
>Superintendent, an Inspector, a solicitor from Birnbergs, a solicitor from
>Bindmans, and my old boss at Darbys in Oxford. Shortly afterwards a new
>Inspector came knocking and told me that he did not think that he was not
>satisfied that I was being held 'necessarily', that he would check what
>Special Branch were up to and get back to me shortly. At 9.40am I was let
>out of my cell to speak to my old boss, and whilst on the phone I was told
>that I was to be bailed to return at a later date. Shortly after 10am I was
>out of the station and walking along the bank of the river Thames on a cold
>Thursday morning in December, a week before Christmas.
>The whole episode affirmed my worst fears about the police, Special Branch
>(the British Gestapo) and the criminal justice system. The rights that we
>assume are upheld in our 'civilised' country are actually not recognised in
>practice. The police detained me under Schedule 7 of the TA, which gives
>the power to officers to 'detain' anyone for up to nine hours to determine
>whether they 'appear' to be a terrorist, and the officer does not even need
>to have reasonable suspicion. That is called ARBITRARY ARREST. They then
>wanted to 'examine' me, during which I had a 'duty' to provide any
>information they required. I HAD NO RIGHT TO SILENCE. Further, I would be
>committing an offence if I failed in that duty. This means that simply
>refusing to answer questions has been CRIMINALISED, and carries a prison
>sentence of up to three months. This is called being GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN
>INNOCENT, and is a subversion of the right to a fair trial.
>The terrorism legislation enacted recently provides the power to detain
>foreigners without charge. This policy (and most others in the TA) is well
>known to the Irish as INTERNMENT, or imprisonment without trial. Section 41
>of the TA gives the power to arrest without warrant anyone suspected of
>committing a specific offence OR anyone suspected of being 'concerned in
>the commission, preparation or instigation' of terrorism. This means that
>the police have the power to arrest someone who has not committed any
>offence or broken any law, which is a clear violation of the basic right to
>freedom. Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights provides
>that: "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one
>shall be deprived of his liberty ... [unless under] lawful arrest or
>detention ... effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent
>legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence."
>In plain English this means that no one should be arrested (and therefore
>deprived of their liberty) unless someone thinks they've done something
>wrong. Compare that with my story.
>The most worrying aspect of the law is the removal of the RIGHTS TO FREEDOM
>OF SPEECH, ASSOCIATION, AND THOUGHT. The 'proscribed list' of terrorist
>organisations tells you who you can and cannot support, which organisations
>you can and cannot join, and even which organisations you can and cannot
>advertise with badges. The government has banned DHKC, the Peoples'
>Revolutionary Liberation Front of Turkey, the leading light in the struggle
>against the brutal fascistic government of Turkey. Also banned is PKK, the
>Kurdistan Workers Party, again in the forefront of the struggle against
>Turkish fascism, but also struggling to win nationhood for the beleaguered
>Kurds. Another banned group is the PFLP, the Popular Front for the
>Liberation of Palestine, one of the leading components of the PLO and the
>strongest revolutionary element in the Palestinian struggle against
>illegitimate Israeli occupation.
>What does all this mean? It means that slowly but surely the government is
>telling you that if you support national liberation and revolutionary
>movements abroad, you will be treated like a criminal, but you will not
>even get the same rights a criminal suspect has. The situation as it stands
>is clearly the beginning of a legislative move towards extreme reaction,
>being carried out by a Labour government, which has moved everything else
>towards reaction and is now changing the laws in order to clamp down on
>'subversion' at home.
>The TA, in effect since 19 February 2001, defines terrorism as action or
>THREAT of action (so you don't even have to do anything, just threaten it)
>which involves serious violence against a person, serious damage to
>property, endangers a person's life, creates serious risk to public health
>or safety, or seriously interferes with an electronic system; and the use
>or threat is designed to INFLUENCE THE GOVERNMENT or intimidate the public;
>and the use or threat is made with the purpose of advancing a political,
>religious or ideological cause.
>Hmmm, sounds like imperialist bombing of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Sudan and
>Iraq, and the sanctions against Iraq, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and other
>states. The definition is so broad that it could be used to target workers
>on strike (which is bound to become a thing of the future, what with the
>chaos in transport, the cutting of 30,000 jobs at Consignia, and the
>continuing crisis in capitalist economics), anti-war protestors,
>anti-capitalist protestors, indeed anyone who even tries to 'influence' the
>government. We in the SLP will leave all the 'influencing' to the
>social-democratic sell-outs, the reformist revisionists and the Trotskyite
>factions of the Socialist Alliance. We do not aim to influence, rather we
>aim to abolish this system and replace it with socialism, and if that means
>defying unjust laws, so be it.
>Hints and Tips if you are arrested for anything, including detention under
>the TA:
>1. Do not speak to the police other than to give your name and address.
>2. Insist on speaking to a solicitor immediately.
>3. Insist on writing materials if you don't have any and make accurate
>notes of everything.
>4. Do not get angry or frightened. Where you are taking a principled
>stance, stand your ground.
>5. Do not go into interview without advice from a solicitor you are happy
>with, and DO NOT give the police any evidence they would not otherwise get.
>For confidential advice or assistance in any police station, or to find out
>more about the campaign, feel free to call the author of this article on
>07818 026883 or e-mail [EMAIL PROTECTED]


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