A leading Yemeni human rights activist questioned by Gatwick airport anti-terror officers tells Channel 4 News he fears Britain is targeting people who oppose US drone wars.
Baraa Shiban (pictured) had arrived in the UK ahead of a planned speech at think-tank Chatham House when he was held under schedule 7 of the terrorism act, recently used to controversial effect in the detention of David Miranda.
“They said it was because I am from Yemen,” he told Channel 4 News.
“They also said that they wanted to know [about me] because relations between the UK and Yemen are important.
“Basically all of the questions were about my human rights work for Reprieve and my political opinions.”
All of the questions were about my human rights work and my political opinions. Baraa Shiban
When Mr Shiban said he did not think his views were relevant to security, Mr Shiban said he was threatened with being detained for the full nine hours available under the law.
“The official said ‘I am authorised to detain you for up to nine hours. We are only here for an hour, and we can be here for up to nine. So you understand what this can lead to.'”
Mr Shiban said he was also told by the official that “Your organisation has obviously been causing a lot of problems to your country. The relations between your government and the UK are vital for us.”
“They did not ask for my files, but they repeatedly asked about the nature of my work and my opinions.
“Obviously the whole world heard about the detention of David Miranda, which was a major concern.
“I had no problems at the border when I came for work earlier this year, so I was really perplexed by the stop and the interrogation.
“I hope it does not mean that Britain is targeting people who oppose the drone wars in my country, which are totally counterproductive and spreading a great deal of hatred.”
Update: The government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, has met with Baraa Shiban. Mr Shiban said: “I hope Mr Anderson will press the government to account for this misuse of terrorism powers to harass and intimidate those whose views the UK and US find inconvenient.”
— David Anderson (@terrorwatchdog) September 26, 2013
Meanwhile in a separate case a Pakistani lawyer has been blocked from travelling to the US where he had planned to speak to congress about America’s drone programme.
Shahzad Akbar wants to accompany family members of Waziristan drone victims who are taking their case to US lawmakers.
Mr Akbar said an immigration officer at the US embassy told him that she is satisfied he is not a flight risk but she “doesn’t have powers to grant me visa due to my ‘history’ with US”.
“I asked her what ‘history’ and she said ‘you know that you have a history with the US’.
“She was referring to the fact that I sued the CIA for drone strikes in Pakistan and was the first one to challenge US drone strikes in courts.
“I still have valid multiple UK and Schengen visas on my passport so I am certainly not a security risk of any kind and it is only my human rights work that is the reason for not giving me the visa,” he told Channel 4 News.
Channel 4 News is awaiting comment from the US embassy.