A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country's "anti-terrorism" law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.
When he objected that his political views had no relevance to security concerns, UK law enforcement officials threatened to detain him for the full nine hours allowed by the Terrorism Act of 2000, the same statute that was abused by UK officials last month to detain my partner, David Miranda, for nine hours.
Shiban tells his story today, here, in the Guardian, and recounts how the UK official told him "he had detained me not merely because I was from Yemen, but also because of Reprieve's work investigating and criticising the efficacy of US drone strikes in my country."
The notion that Shiban posed some sort of security threat was absurd on its face. As the Guardian reported Tuesday, "he visited the UK without incident earlier this summer and testified in May to a US congressional hearing on the impact of the covert drone programme in Yemen."
Viewing anti-drone activism as indicative of a terrorism threat is noxious. As Reprieve's Cory Crider put it yesterday, "if there were any doubt the UK was abusing its counter-terrorism powers to silence critics, this ends it."
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