Two UK anti-capitalists, returning to the country on Sunday May 19 after
attending an anarchist festival in the Netherlands, were intercepted by Kent
Police Special Branch officers at Dover, then detained and questioned for
three hours under Schedules 7 and 8 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Schedule 7 makes it a crime not to provide information to an officer if the
questions are intended to investigate ‘terrorism’. However the activists
refused to provide information, claiming the police’s questions were,
instead, intended to gather information on political dissent.
The focus of the questioning was on the Carnival Against Capitalism being staged by Stop G8 in the West End of London on Tuesday June 11.
They were also quizzed about their views on a wide range of political issues and asked about their personal lives and work.
This is not the first time Schedule 7 powers have been used against anti-G8 activists. In 2007 activists were stopped under the Act while returning from G8 protests in Germany.
Tom Anderson, a researcher for UK based research group Corporate Watch, and radical writer Paul Cudenec(2), both verbally challenged the use of the legislation against them.
They were then presented with print-outs of the Act’s definition of ‘terrorism’, which the police officers claimed could include protests. They were interviewed separately in locked rooms without the presence of their lawyers and their interrogators did not identify themselves.
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 removes the usual right to have a solicitor present during questioning and also the right to silence. The campaigners were warned that it is an arrestable offence not to answer questions, punishable on conviction with a three-month custodial sentence or a fine.
The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol)(2) has reported that Schedule 7is frequently used by the police to gather intelligence about activists.
However, the guidance to the law clearly states that Schedule 7 ‘should only be used to counter terrorism and may not be used for any other purpose.’
Arguing that the legislation was being illegitimately used for blatantly political purposes, the two campaigners declined to answer questions that were not related to any investigation of terrorism. The campaigners refused to answer any questions relating to the upcoming G8 protests.
Having been detained at 5.30pm after leaving the ferry service from Dunkirk, the anti-capitalists were finally released at 8.30pm. The maximum detention time under the legislation is nine hours. Mr Anderson had previously been stopped three times under Schedule 7 and questioned about his activism and his research and journalism for Corporate Watch.(3) He said: “Schedule 7 is being used to intimidate those who voice political views and as an intelligence gathering tool. The term ‘terrorism’ is being interpreted as a catch-all term to delegitimise any expression of dissent against the system in which we live. I would encourage anyone stopped and questioned about political protest to defy this blatant misuse of the act.
Furthermore, I am not surprised that the police are using anti-Terrorism laws to gather information about resistance to the G8 conference. Whenever people come together to confront the capitalist system that the G8 represents the state will take whatever steps it can to silence and intimidate them.”
Mr Cudenec, who had not previously been stopped, said: “It’s extremely disturbing that anti-terrorist legislation is being abused to target and intimidate people voicing alternative political views and we both told them as much.
The state can’t be allowed to get away with redefining protest as so-called terrorism it’s a complete denial of the right to publicly express opposition to the status quo. The protesters who’ll be taking to the streets in London are people who can see the enormous damage being inflicted on society by a corrupt system in which wealth and power go hand in hand and democracy is an empty charade.”
1. See http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/12/358173.html
2. Not their real names, but noms de plume under which they write. 2.