London – Anti-torture advocate and International Director of CAGE Muhammad Rabbani will appeal a magistrate court’s decision that found him guilty yesterday in a landmark privacy case.

Mr Rabbani was ordered to pay court costs of £620 and was granted a conditional discharge of 12 months.

The judgement follows an incident where Mr Rabbani was stopped and searched in November at London Heathrow. He cited client confidentiality as a reason to refuse the police access to his devices. In relation to this point, both judge and prosecution accepted that Mr Rabbani was of good character and worthy of belief.

Schedule 7 gives police at borders unfettered access to individuals’ digital worlds, even when there is no suspicion of a crime. This is a violation of the rule of law. Moreover, statistics show that these digital strip searches overwhelmingly target Muslims, although they have broader implications for all those who carry confidential information.

Dr Adnan Siddiqui, Director of CAGE, said:

“Finding against Rabbani for upholding the rule of law, making a stand against the harassment of Muslims at airports, and protecting a torture victim’s right to seek accountability highlights the injustices of the system. The outcome demands an attitude of courage and fortitude from our supporters, as well as broader civil society. We must continue to challenge these injustices despite intimidation.”

“We would like to thank all those who supported Rabbani and CAGE in resisting oppressive counter-terrorism legislation, which has seen the steady erosion of our value and liberties. Despite the outcome, coercion and intimidation have still failed to break the principle of trust which is a key value of CAGE and all those who understand justice.”

Muhammad Rabbani, International Director of CAGE, said:

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. 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. Maintaining the trust of the torture survivor is key to holding the perpetrators of his torture to account. CAGE will continue to seek accountability and due process, with the confidence that our community and our supporters are behind us.” 

Gareth Peirce, solicitor, said:

“This is a mockery of the concept of due process – the exercise of a principled, rational, truthful, justifiable concern that legitimate confidential obligations should be respected is transformed instead into a strict liability criminal offence. The idea that there is access to any protection is nonsensical. 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.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)