[hat-tip James Hammerton]
POLICE HAVE been accused of “trampling on basic rights” after ordering protesters to take down banners accusing Scientology of being a cult.
Officers banned the placards during a demonstration against the self-styled church in Glasgow city centre last weekend. Civil liberties campaigners have warned a dangerous precedent is being set for the suppression of free speech.
Last Saturday’s demonstration was organised by Anonymous, an anti-Scientology group. Its members protest where the church is holding public sessions.
Strathclyde Police admitted officers had stopped activists using the word “cult” after receiving a complaint.
A spokeswoman said: “The word is not a breach of the peace in itself. However, in this case it was exacerbating the situation and our stance was that we had to remove that.
“From a policing point of view, a balance has to be struck between the right to assemble and hold a meeting and other persons’ rights to go about their business or demonstrate without being obstructed or hindered.” …
Difficult to imagine that a word can cause an obstruction. I can see how placards and people may cause an obstruction but that was not the original accusation. What is Scottish law in relation to the first issue? Is it similar to s5 Public Order Act 1986?
5. Harassment, alarm or distress.
— (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
Incidentally a Dr Quite Evil writes to point out that in English law – the relevant law being s5 Public Order Act 1986 – “no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling”.
All very silly, isn’t it?
Perhaps the protestors should write “Scientology is a cu*t” instead.
I’ve been slow off the mark on this:
About two weeks ago (May 16), Nottingham University campus was agog as police arrived to interview former student Hicham Yezza. After some ten years’ study, first as undergraduate, then graduate, Hicham was a non-academic member of staff in one of the University departments.
His mistake was to agree to help Rizwaan Sabir, a friend in the Politics faculty, who needed a document downloaded from the web and printed off. This was all part of legitimate study: the document itself was on the Politics Faculty reading list. Unfortunately, the document in question also happened to be an al-Qaeda Training Manual.
Someone noticed. They informed their superiors, who in turn referred the matter on upward. Eventually, the issue reached the very top. The Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and senior management of the University decided it was beyond them. They owed a duty of care to all their students. The implications behind the download were too large. So they handed the matter over to the local Police.
Which is where we came in. Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza were arrested. Their homes were searched, laptops confiscated, friends interviewed. They were subjected to six days of questioning – and then released. Or at least, Sabir was released. Hicham’s story now takes a turn for the decidedly worse. He is – he was – in the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The focus of the inquiry shifted to the possibility that he had been less than truthful in his application to stay.
So he was re-arrested under the Immigration Act and moved directly to a detention centre. From there, he is due to be deported back to Algeria this Sunday. …
The Home Office has cancelled removal directions to have Hicham Yezza deported on Sunday following an application in the High Court.
His solicitors will return to the High Court this afternoon to seek to have him released while his case is reconsidered.
David Smith, solicitor at Cartwright King, said: “We hope and trust that the Home Office will now release Mr Yezza and reconsider his case properly and in accordance with the law.”(The Register)
MP Alan Simpson:
He described the original arrest as a “dreadful cock-up”. The subsequent deportation was a blatant attempt “to try to justify the abuse of that power under the Terrorism Act. If we allow this to be done in our name, in our silent collusion, we become the architects of our own totalitarianism. We live in fear of speaking openly. We live in fear of enquiring and researching openly… We live in fear of the quiet unannounced knock on the door and we live in fear of our own shallowness, in terms of the willingness to stand side-by-side with each other in order to defend the very basis of an open democracy that we claim that terrorism is a threat to.”
I want to highlight this bit because it’s very important:
The only real grounds they had for suspecting anything to be amiss was the downloading of a book.
Of course, this very fact is now grounds for arrest. Under s.58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a person commits an offence if they “possesses a document or record containing information”… “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
A man wearing a T-shirt depicting a cartoon character holding a gun was stopped from boarding a flight by the security at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Brad Jayakody, from Bayswater, central London, said he was “stumped” at the objection to his Transformers T-shirt.
Mr Jayakody said he had to change before boarding as security officers objected to the gun, held by the cartoon character.
Airport operator BAA said it was investigating the incident. …
The police, who have led the demand for it, have provided hypothetical examples of circumstances which would justify the 42 days, but have not gone as far as to claim that any terrorist has escaped justice because 28 wasn’t enough whereas 42 would have inculpated him.
If the security services know something they can’t tell us, we could have been told that, without divulging any secrets. We haven’t. Just about every respected, objective figure who knows about these things – except those who are obliged to toe the government line – agree that there is no evidence backing 42 days.
But that is to be logical, and 42 is not logical. It is, though, symbolic. It represents all the government’s excessive anti-terrorist legislation; detention without charge or trial; the steady erosion of the rule of law; and the nibbling away of civil liberties. The resistance of the Labour rebels is not based on a calculation of how many weeks is appropriate. It is a statement encompassing the whole of Labour’s anti-terrorist policy. Enough is enough.