Mar 23 2002

War against terrorism and the threat to freedom of expression

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 01RCN @ 7:40 pm

Steve Kaczynski highlights the Blair government’s further attacks on our civil liberties

Since September 11, 2001, the bourgeois democratic mask of respecting rights has been slipping. In December, a car bringing the left-wing Turkish language weekly magazine Yasadigimiz Vatan (The homeland we live in) was stopped by British police at Dover, and two issues of the magazine impounded under the Terrorism Act.

The magazine has been transported into Britain regularly in this way for some time. The British, and sometimes the French police or customs, frequently stopped the car bringing the magazines in, holding it up for varying lengths of time and questioning the driver before allowing him and the vehicle to proceed.

Further attack on civil liberties

However, this is the first time that the magazine has actually been impounded. The driver was questioned about his involvement with the radical left from Turkey, the British left, Irish republicanism and his attitude to the Provos’ cease-fire, and his reaction to September 11. Eventually he was allowed to go but his cargo was impounded.

To date there is no indication of exactly why the magazine was impounded – apparently the police do not feel obliged to supply such reasons. Yasadigimiz Vatan has supported the prisoners in the ongoing Death Fast in Turkey, and it is possible that the British police regard the magazine as a legal organ of the DHKP-C, now officially banned in Britain as well as Turkey. Yet the magazine itself is not banned in Turkey, though there it is subject to police raids and various other forms of pressure. Subsequent issues of the same magazine have been brought into Britain in the same way and have not been stopped. The police confiscation therefore appears to be an arbitrary act. Of course, in the nature of arbitrary acts, the police might well repeat it on a future occasion.

Legal means are being pursued to get the impounded magazines back, and attempts are being made to raise awareness of such events in the post-September 11 climate. The incident described above is not unique.

Though I have no other details, I understand that a Sikh publication was also confiscated by British police recently, apparently on the grounds that that it was supposedly connected to the Sikh militant group Baba Khalsa, also banned in Britain under the Terrorism Act.

But it is not just publications that are being detained. Fahim Ahmed, who was a parliamentary candidate of the Socialist Labour Party in Oxford in last year’s election, described in the SLP publication Spark how he was detained by police while returning from Belgium and forcibly fingerprinted, again under the Terrorism Act.

Under capitalism, civil liberties are not automatic but are always under threat and must be maintained through struggle. In the post-September 11 climate, the state is taking steps it might have shied away from before, and the left must respond.

Although I attended neither meeting, in London there were separate meetings on February 10 and 12 concerned with the threat posed by the Terrorism Act. Such activity must be continued and stepped up. After all, it is the state which decides who is a terrorist.

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