Lawyer lambasts arrest of actors

Clive Stafford SmithLawyer lambasts arrest of actors

By Daniel Coysh

Morning Star, 22 February 2006

Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said yesterday that the arrest of two actors last week, who portrayed former Guantanamo Bay detainees was “an ugly farce.” The actors, along with the former prisoners that they played in Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanamo, were held at Luton Airport after returning from the Berlin Film Festival last Thursday.

The story was reported in the Morning Star on Monday after its online exposure by former British ambassador Craig Murray, but mainstream media sources have been reluctant to follow it up.

Human rights group Reprieve insisted yesterday that the four men had been “detained” at the Bedfordshire airport after returning from Germany on an easyJet flight.

Reprieve legal director Clive Stafford Smith said: “This may be a farce, but it is an ugly farce. First, the Special Branch adds insult to injury by harassing innocent men who suffered for two long years in Guantanamo Bay before being released without charge. As if that were not enough, the Special Branch then detains the actors who portray them in a film.”

The charity issued a statement on behalf of actor Rizwan Ahmed which said that he had subsequently been interrogated by three Special Branch officers and provided shocking details of the interrogation.

He was interrogated by a female officer in a small room about his acting roles, his political opinions and his views on “the Iraq war and everything else that was going on. “She asked me whether I intended to do more documentary films, specifically more political ones like The Road to Guantanamo,” he said. “She then asked me whether I would mind officers contacting me regularly in the future, ‘in case, for example, you might be in a cafe and you overhear someone discussing illegal activities.’

Officers insisted on going through his wallet and mobile phone. When he asked to speak to a lawyer, said Reprieve, Mr Ahmed was told that he could be held for 48 hours without access to anyone.

Mr Ahmed said that police became more agressive when he attempted to contact his lawyer. At no point did they tell him that he was under arrest. As soon as he reached his lawyer, the officers suddenly claimed that “we’re done with you, you can go, what’s the point in calling lawyers.” Mr Ahmed was refused access to notes from the interview, and his request for the names and ranks of the officers was denied.

A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman claimed that the officers were merely carrying out their “normal duties.”