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UK Forced to Rethink Terrorism Laws After Trial Collapse

© Flickr / Penn StateUK Forced to Rethink Terrorism Laws After Trial Collapse
UK Forced to Rethink Terrorism Laws After Trial Collapse - Sputnik International
The collapse of a trial at London’s Old Bailey after it was revealed the British Government and its intelligence agency MI6 had assisted anti-Assad militias could have lasting implications for other terrorist cases and powers of police arrest.

The trial hearing centred on a Swedish national, Bherlin Gildo, who was arrested in 2014 at London’s  Heathrow airport on his way from Copenhagen to Manila. He was detained under schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act, which provides for the detention of a person in a port or airport and allows for the examination and detention of goods "for the purpose of determining whether they have been used in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism". 

Gildo was accused of attending a terrorist training camp and receiving weapons training as well as possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist. However, the prosecution withdrew the charges, saying that – after reviewing the evidence – "many matters were raised [they] did not know at the outset".

Gildo’s defence counsel Henry Blaxland QC, told the court:

"If it is the case that HM government was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance it would be unconscionable to allow the prosecution to continue."

"If government agencies, of which the prosecution is a part, are themselves involved in the use of force, in whatever way, it is our submission that would be an affront to justice to allow the prosecution to continue," Blaxland said.

Gareth Pierce, Gildo’s solicitor, said: "Given that there is a reasonable basis for believing that the British were themselves involved in the supply of arms, if that’s so, it would be an utter hypocrisy to prosecute someone who has been involved in the armed resistance".

Terrorism Arrest and Prosecutions in Doubt

The collapse of the case will have huge implications for the police in making arrests under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. According to investigative research blog UndercoverInfo, an example is the David Miranda case.

Miranda is the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who together with film-maker Laura Poitras exposed the claims of ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden of mass spying by the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ intelligence services.

He was also arrested under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act when in-transit at Heathrow on his way home to Brazil. His belongings – including a laptop, mobile phone, two memory sticks, a pair of DVDs, a Sony video game console and a hard drive – were seized and examined. 

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Miranda had no intention of entering Britain but was merely changing planes. He was not charged with any offence. It was cogently argued that his detention (for nine hours) was not about terrorism, but journalism. In May 2014 he was given permission to appeal. The Gildo case may mean that similar searches/arrests under Section 7 are curtailed. 

Another case concerns Shilan Ozcelik, the British woman who was arrested and charged with aiding militias fighting ISIS and who is currently held in HM Prison Holloway awaiting trial. The militias were Kurdish and the defendant argued she had simply intended to offer aid to the YPJ, the Kurdish women’s militia arm that helped liberate the city of Kobani from ISIS.

Following the Gildo case, UndercoverInfo says the arrest of people supporting militias that the British Government overtly or tacitly support may be unlikely. 

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