From the current issue of the Big Issue in the North magazine
Bedfordshire Police has denied it is using the Terrorism Act 2000 to gather information about activists who challenge state interests or the behaviour of corporations.
Corporate Watch (CW) is a not-for-profit collective of journalists founded to research the social and environmental impact of corporate power. It was formed in 1996.
CW researchers Therezia Cooper and Tom Anderson* have been stopped and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on five occasions at UK airports while travelling to Egypt and returning from research trips to Palestine.
The organisation states that it is “documenting companies profiting from the Israeli occupation as part of aiding the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid, occupation and militarism”.
Released without charge
On 5 February, Cooper was held for two hours of questioning at Luton Airport by Bedfordshire Police, which later undertook the same exercise with Anderson. Both were released without charge. Other locations where CW researchers have been stopped include Gatwick Airport and the port of Dover.
Schedule 7 allows travellers to be questioned to find out if they might be terrorists. Interviewees have no right to remain silent, cannot access legal advice and can be detained for up to nine hours. In 2012/13, 61,145 people were examined under Schedule 7 and 2,277 were stopped for over an hour.
In August, David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who first revealed America and Britain’s mass surveillance programmes, was held for five minutes short of nine hours.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill currently being discussed in Parliament will reduce the time a person can be detained without charge under Schedule 7 to six hours.
Anderson was stopped for around an hour at Luton Airport. He claims he was questioned about a wide range of anti-capitalist activities he is involved in, including the International Solidarity Movement, which supports Palestinian non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation. Police were particularly keen to know why the groups he is involved with do not inform the authorities in advance of their protest activities.
“Unrelated to terrorism”
On the conclusion of the interview, Anderson was informed that he had been stopped under Section 7 because the police wanted to find out if he was involved in violence or terrorism. Anderson replied: “Your questions are unrelated to terrorism and I don’t believe that is your real interest.”
Anderson said: “Schedule 7 helps the police to build up profiles on activists so they can undermine political movements. The questions were unrelated to rooting out terrorism and the movements they were interested in have never been involved in such activities. They do, however, pose a threat to state interests and the profits of private companies. The police’s role is to protect the powerful against public discontent.
“CW is not surprised at the harassment, especially following the success of some of our grassroots campaigns such as the one against G4S, which has challenged the world’s largest security company’s ability to gain further contracts.”
Anderson has contacted his MP, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party. She has provided him with a letter to be given to the police if he is again stopped under Schedule 7 when visiting Palestine. The letter outlines the purpose of Anderson’s visit and requests that the police do not stop him or confiscate his research equipment.
A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Police said it couldn’t discuss individual cases but officers had always used it in a “lawful and proportionate manner”.
“If someone believes they have been detained improperly they have the right to contact our Professional Standards Department or the Independent Police Complaints Commission to raise their concerns,” the spokesperson said.* names have been changed