Heathrow: Police ‘rifle through Muslim man’s belongings despite saying he was not under suspicion’

A London-based Muslim activist, who runs Cage, an advocacy organisation that has in the past campaigned for the release of British citizens being held without trial at Guantanamo Bay, has complained of being “stopped” by police at London’s Heathrow Airport.

On Friday, November 5th, Dr Asim Qureshi said he was questioned by two officers at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, where he said he was delayed for four-and-a-half hours.

He was not placed under arrest or detained, and was informed that he was not under any suspicion, but was told that the purpose of the stop was to determine if they should suspect him in any way, Qureshi said.

READ MORE: Good Morning Britain: Shamima Begum ‘begs for forgiveness’ from British public as she fights to return to UK

“They remind me that I am obligated to answer their questions, refusing to do so would lead to my arrest,” Qureshi wrote in a tweet.

He explained that the officers who had stopped him said they would like to have a “conversation” with him, but he refused, saying a conversation is where “two people have equal power in an exchange” and that it couldn’t be a conversation because he’d be arrested for refusing to respond.

Dr Qureshi said he accused the officers of “coercion”, but they attempted to “deny the coercive elements” of what was taking place.

Dr Qureshi says police were particularly interested in a book about racism in cricket

The rights campaigner said the police officers then began to “rifle” through his bag, and pulled out a book by Mike Marqusee on racism, class and cricket which they looked at “as if they’ve found the most damning piece of evidence”.

The officers were “very interested” in the tabs he kept in the book, flicking through them as if they might indicate something of his mindset to them, Dr Qureshi said.

“The police were closely scrutinising each tab as if it revealed something,” he continued.

He added that “things got a little nasty at one point” when one of the officers said they would take his biometrics, which he said felt “vindictive”.

“There were long periods where they left me alone. It seemed needless,” Dr Qureshi said, adding that he used the time to doodle on an information flyer they had given him about police powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

He said: “It was the first time I had really looked around carefully to see what was in the room.

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“Irony of all ironies, there was a Muslim prayer mat folded on the table in the corner, perhaps the most profound symbol of which community is specifically targeted by this legislation”.

MyLondon contacted the Home Office for a statement on Dr Qureshi’s experience at Heathrow Airport, but they said that they could not comment as it was a matter concerning the Metropolitan Police.

Asked to share their input regarding the incident, a statement emailed on Sunday to MyLondon from the Metropolitan Police said: “Police officers at ports of entry have the power to stop, question, search and if necessary detain people entering or leaving the UK.

“We are unable to provide any further details on specific instances where those powers have been used”.

My London – Local News