| ||Vikram Dodd in The Guardian today covers disturbing revelations on the use of ethnic profiling under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act (2000), which allow the police to stop and search individuals, and the exploitation of the power to harass and intimidate Muslims into spying on their community. |
Dodd covers the cases of two Muslims who have come forward, Asif Ahmed and Abdullah, a youth worker from east London.
Dodd details the men’s experiences of being stopped and questioned about their faith, their attitudes towards extremism and terrorism and the offers made to engage in espionage for the security establishment.
“Just after landing at Edinburgh airport on 11 April 2010 Asif Ahmed was met by plainclothes officers and taken away from his wife. He was about to turn from model citizen into a terror suspect, one of 85,000 people who met a similar fate that year.
“Officers met the couple just after they got off the flight from Stansted and told them Ahmed needed to come with them for a "normal check".
“He was taken to a room by two officers who told him they were from special branch, a police department that deals in intelligence and security matters. Ahmed, 28, was told he was being questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
“When he asked why, an officer replied: "No reason, it is just a random stop." Ahmed told them they had stopped the only two people on the flight who looked like Muslims.
“Ahmed says he felt compelled to answer their questions: "I had no choice, I was told I had no right to refuse." He says the officers told him that if he exercised the right to remain silent, he could be detained further and eventually face jail.
“Ahmed says he was questioned about his job, where he prayed, the Muslim groups he was active in. He was asked for a definition of extremism and what he would do if he found out someone was going to carry out an act of terrorism. He got the answer to that correct: he would tell the police.
“In another room his wife was questioned. She was upset about being asked details about her sister, who was seriously ill at the time. Ahmed says the policemen interviewing him kept saying that he and his wife, studying for a PhD in political science, were "interesting people". Then one of the officers asked if he would become a spy: "They asked if I would like to work with special branch, to keep an eye on the Muslim community in Edinburgh ... They asked me three times. They said do it covertly." He refused.”
Disclosures of the police and security services intimidating Muslims into spying on their community first surfaced in an article in The Independent two years ago, in May 2009, with further details of the continued abuse of the powers published by the paper in January 2010.
Use of Schedule 7 powers by Special Branch to harass Muslims in Scotland into spying was revealed in an article in the Herald newspaper in May last year.
Dodd’s revelations today raises questions on whether the concerns voiced over ethnic profiling and the harassment and intimidation of Muslims, as well as the abuse of counter-terrorism powers by security services and police forces, are being adequately addressed by the Government, the Independent Reviewer of terrorism legislation and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
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