London – Phantom Parrot, a new gripping documentary film, chronicles the efforts of CAGE’s Managing Director, Muhammad Rabbani, to safeguard the confidentiality of torture survivor Ali Al-Marri, in the face of police coercion and state surveillance. The film will premiere on March 19th at The Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, one of the world’s largest documentary film festivals.

Directed by award winning filmmaker, Kate Stonehill, the film has unprecedented access to CAGE’s inner workings for over 6 years and provides a glimpse into the tireless efforts of activists and advocates who refuse to be silenced or intimidated.

Phantom Parrot, captures the rise of the surveillance state and the existence of a top-secret surveillance programme, which the documentary is named after. It shines light on the weaponization of technology to invade and erode our collective rights to privacy.

Muhammad Rabbani, an anti-torture advocate, was arrested in 2017 after refusing to provide passwords to his devices during a police stop under the draconian Schedule 7 powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 at London’s Heathrow Airport. He was returning from an investigative trip in the Middle East and his devices contained legally privileged information taken from a torture survivor that implicated high ranking FBI officials.

The film introduces its audience to the case of Ali al-Marri, the torture survivor at the heart of the story, and how CAGE led his campaign to bring his abusers to account. Mr al-Marri, who described his experience as ‘living in a judicial black hole’, was detained without charge in the US in 2002, placed under systematic solitary confinement for 13 years and subjected to a wide range of torture and abuse. CAGE’s investigations and analyses on the al-Marri case reveals the complicity of six high ranking officials complicit in the torture of Mr al-Marri, namely Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who has since restyled himself as an anti-torture advocate and is CEO of the US-based The Soufan Group.

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director for CAGE, said:

“The journey in piecing together this film has been an arduous one. The documentary stands as a testament to the difficult work CAGE continues to do in representing victims of state abuse and in challenging government overreach. This is less about me and more about the courageous survivors who trust us to defend their rights.”

“I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to Kate Stonehill and all those involved in creating this documentary.”

Kate Stonehill, director of Phantom Parrot, said:

“When I met Rabbani and came to learn about the situation he was in, I was immediately drawn in by the many questions that I felt his case would unravel. My hope is that the film ignites a discussion about the ways that emerging technologies are used more broadly in policing and surveillance. These technologies represent an expansion of police power — yet too often, there is a troubling lack of transparency about how they are used. How many of us actually understand what a search of a phone entails? I made this film to bring audiences closer to the questions at the heart of Rabbani’s case.”

“I believe that stories such as this can help us understand one of the critical issues of our time — digital privacy — by offering a window into what happens to our ability to challenge power structures when it is eroded.”


(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.)