UK Man Gets 12-Month Sentence For Refusing To Turn Over Passwords To Police

from the privacy:-the-new-terrorism dept

Here's how you can become a terrorist without actually participating in anything terror-related. Just hang out in the UK with locked devices until law enforcement develops an interest in you.

A director of a Muslim advocacy group has been convicted of failing to hand over passwords for an iPhone and a laptop, which he said contained sensitive information from a torture victim.

Muhammad Rabbani, 36, from London, was found guilty but walked free after being handed a 12-month conditional discharge at Westminster magistrates' court on Monday. He was ordered to pay £600 in costs.

The police may have failed to sweat passwords out of Rabbani during last November's three-hour detention, but they were instrumental in getting him charged under the UK's terrorism laws. Rabbani will be serving the UK equivalent of a suspended sentence. No jail unless "further violations" occur. This means all police have to do is stop him somewhere else and demand his passwords. Any refusal to do so will be a violation of his conditional discharge.

Unlike the US, there's no question of potential rights violations to be resolved. The UK's anti-terror laws enable this sort of law enforcement behavior. Rabbani said he had sensitive information on his devices he didn't feel comfortable sharing with police, especially when they had little reason to suspect him of being up to anything terroristic.

Rabbani is apparently investigating a torture case linked to the US, involving a citizen in one of the Brown Countries (a.k.a., a Gulf state). His trips back and forth have been greeted with much consternation and demands for device passwords. But it wasn't until last November UK law enforcement finally decided to move ahead with charges.

The court handing down the sentence was almost apologetic.

In sentencing, senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said she believed Rabbani was protecting sensitive information but was bound by the law to find him guilty.

This is why bad bills should never be made law. They force people -- like judges -- to sentence someone for the crime of being uncooperative. Testimony during the case didn't clear anything up. The officer who performed the attempted search and actual arrest wouldn't say whether he was acting on specific information about Rabbani, or simply hassling someone UK police had hassled several times before without feeling the need to turn it into a terrorism case.

Passwords/pins are a foregone conclusion in the UK if the court can be convinced law enforcement demands were somehow related to national security. That's how the 2000 terrorism law was designed. And with Rabbani, we're being shown how it works.

Filed Under: muhammad rabbani, passwords, privacy, terrorism, terrorism act, uk

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 10:17am

    Re: Compel?

    Wtf does this even mean? Can the judge not compel the officer to answer the question? He's not a reporter that gets to protect his sources. He's a law enforcement officer presenting evidence for the prosecution. If he can't or won't specify that there a) was evidence, and b) where he got it, then there isn't any evidence. Right?

    The evidence was that he asked someone for the password and they refused to provide it. That's all that's required to convict under this law. The judge might be able to compel an answer, but can't do anything with it. (We'll, they could, but that would require the courage to hold a law as unjust... which is evidently rare.)

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