Friday, 15 February 2008

The Thought Police

The Terrorism Act says that:

“Collecting or possessing information likely to be useful to terrorists is made an offence.”

But what exactly does ‘useful’ mean?

A number of people, who have had their homes searched by the police have had their Angarrack books confiscated, along with other seemingly innocuous items. Is John Angarrack’s book ‘Breaking the Chains’ ‘useful’ to terrorists and is this why his book is confiscated by the police in their raids on members of the Cornish public?

One member (Member B) of the Kernow/Cornish Branch of the Celtic League who was arrested in September 2007 also had many items confiscated, including Angarrack’s book. He also had his own and a friends computer taken.

Member B has said that one of the things the police kept banging about while he was being interrogated, on two separate occasions, was whether he had forwarded emails received from the Cornish National Liberation Army/Cornish Republican Army (CNLA/CRA). If he had, the police told him, he would be accused of spreading information and propaganda.

Were the police alleging that Member B had broken by forwarding emails? That he had broken the law by collecting and/or possessing information that could be ‘useful’ to so called terrorists, under the terms of the Terrorism Act? Has Angarrack’s book been taken by the police, because it is full of information and propaganda?

If someone can be accused of crimes under the Terrorism Act 2000 for forwarding emails or possessing a book that could potentially be ‘useful’ to terrorists, we had better all watch out, especially those with big libraries or access to the internet.

What is certain is that the Terrorism Act 2000 is potentially an act of law that can allow a police force, that is keen to meet their targets to keep the politicians from their doors and the pay packets of their bosses bulging, to arrest anyone for freedom of thought and expression.

I am sure the Terrorism Act wasn’t designed for this purpose, but it seems that it is being used by the police authorities as such.

One example of this can be seen from the recent quashing of the convictions by the English Appeals Court of five young Muslim men who were jailed for downloading and sharing extremist liturature from the internet. The lawyer of one of the men previously convicted said that they had been jailed for “thought crime”. Imran Khan, solicitor for Mr Zafar told BBC News that:

“Young Muslim men before this judgement could have been prosecuted simply for simply looking at any material on the basis that it might be connected in some way to terrorist purposes.”

Mr Khan also said that section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act had been written in such wide terms that “effectively, anybody could have been caught in it.”

Mr Malik, one of the men convicted said:

“My prosecution was a test case under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Today's decision means no first year student can ever be prosecuted again under this Act for possessing extremist literature.”

This ruling could also have implications for the Cornish public who have been arrested as part of the police campaign to track down CNLA/CRA suspects. It is hoped that the implications of this case filter down to the police of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary and that they immediately drop the bail of those people arrested in September and carefully consider future raids and arrests on the grounds that people are guilty of thought crime.

Terrorism Act 2006

Terrorism Act 2000

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