Guantanamo Film Stars Detained in Luton

Michael Winterbottom’s forthcoming docu-drama, ‘The Road to Guantanamo’ tells the story of Asif Iqbal, Ruhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul – otherwise known as ‘The Tipton Three’, innocent men illegally detained in Guantanamo Bay. In the TV film, produced in association with Channel Four, 23 year old actor, Riz Ahmed plays Shafiq. The film, which is the first British production to premiere simultaneously on DVD, internet and television, has just received its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival this weekend, where it received an overwhelming response. The three innocent men who inspired and helped develop the film accompanied acclaimed director Winterbottom and the crew to the Festival

Riz tells the LIP of his unwelcome treatment on arriving back in the UK.

“When our flight landed at Luton Airport from Berlin, Shafiq Rasul was stopped at the Immigration Desk. Soon after, I was detained and questioned. I was not told the reason for this.

The officer had initially questioned me extensively by the baggage claim, taking notes from my answers and from my passport. When I asked what all these questions were for, and whether this was an interview, she led me to a small interview room and said that it was “if I want it to be”.

I gave my basic details, explained about the festival, and the film being the reason for our visit to Berlin, which she said she believed. She said they need to stop us and the Tipton boys as anyone with “terror links” must be questioned – not that I had any necessarily, she said. I added that the Tipton Three didn’t either, as is widely documented. She then asked to go through the contents of my wallet. I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguities in the purpose of the detention and this proposed search, and so asked to speak to a lawyer.

I was denied access to legal advice, supposedly officially,riz under powers used to detain me. However the specific powers under which I was being held were deliberately made unclear by the detaining Special Branch officer. She gave me a blank copy of a “Section 7 of the Terrorism Act Detention Form” to explain why I couldn’t contact anyone. The form stated that someone detained under its powers can be prevented from contacting anyone, including legal advisors, for up to 48 hours, by a superintendent officer. I asked her whether she was a superintendent. Her reply was that I was not in fact being held under the powers outlined in this form. I was only being denied legal advice for the first hour of questioning, rather than 48hours. The reason why I had been given this form was now unclear.

She left the room, and said she was bringing in a male colleague to enforce the wallet search, since “a lot of Muslims don’t like dealing with women do they.” As she left I quickly called an academic lawyer, Ravinder Thukral, on my mobile.

He called back as she re-entered and spoke directly to the her on my phone. It was unclear now whether I was officially not allowed to call anyone, or whether she simply wouldn’t help me to do so but had no power to stop me. I took another two calls from lawyers during the interview. Each lawyer was unclear about the powers she was using to detain me, prevent me from getting full legal advice, and search my wallet. Her explanations were often unclear and seem to contradict her earlier explanations about the form and its relevance.

Under the threat of “prolonging” my detention, I cooperated in allowing her to go through my wallet. She took detailed notes on all its contents. All of my bankcard details were noted down, as were the details on other people’s business cards I had in my wallet. I was searched for objects that I might use to “hurt” the officers. However this took place about halfway through the interview after I had been with the interviewer alone for some time.

While searching through my wallet she asked me whether I intended to do more documentary films, specifically more political ones like The Road to Guantanamo. She asked “Did you become an actor mainly to do films like this, you know, to publicise the struggles of Muslims?”.

She also asked me what my political views were, what I thought about “the Iraq war and everything else that was going on”, whether the Iraq war was “right” in my view.

She then asked me whether I would mind officers contacting me regularly in the future, “in case, for example, you might be in a café, and you overhear someone discussing illegal activities”.

I then took a call from Clive Stafford Smith who had been contacted by Ravinder Thukral, the first Lawyer I had contacted. He told me to wait a moment as he was on his way to Gareth Peirce’s (Human Rights Lawyer who helped secure the Tipton Three’s release) office, and she would call me in a moment. When I told the interviewer I’d have to take a call from Gareth Peirce’s office shortly, she said she wouldn’t allow me to. She started raising her voice, and behaving in a more urgent and aggressive way. xray boysShe called in a male colleague who threateningly told me to give him the phone before gripping my hands and wrestling it from me. He then sat on a table in the room, grinned at me, winked and went through my phone. I protested, but he ignored me and continued to go through my phone. Then a third officer entered, and all three adopted very aggressive stances, threatening to take me to a police station, calling me a “fucker”, moving in very close to my face, pointing and shouting at me to “shut up and listen”. I complained at being called a fucker. The officer who still had my phone, and who had sworn at me, smiled at me and then said “now you’re making things up, no one called you that”.

I finally convinced the original officer to allow me to call Ms. Peirce’s office simply to ascertain the validity of the detention and the denial of full access to lawyers. She agreed on condition that if I tried to ask any further questions of the lawyer my phone would be taken away. As soon as I got through to the lawyer, she suddenly said “we’re done with you, you can go, whats the point in calling lawyers”. The lawyer on the phone told the officer (again, speaking directly to her on my phone) that he hadn’t heard of such powers existing in Section 7 of the TACT. She changed the subject and said that I was free to go now anyway and that I was now prolonging my detention by my own insistence on calling lawyers.

I took the opportunity, took the lawyer’s advice, and left the room. She advised me to go home and read up on anti terror legislation. I advised the officers in the room to learn some people skills.

I asked for any notes from the interview, and for names/ranks of the officers. I was denied both, and given a small, pink, police search record sheet – specifying that the purpose of the search was for “intelligence” and that I had been examined under the “TACT 2000”. The reverse of the sheet, “Sheet 2 “which as stated on the form itself “officers must also complete” was missing.”

34 comments for “Guantanamo Film Stars Detained in Luton

  1. February 20, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    Alarming stuff. For what it’s worth, Schedule 7 (not ‘Section 7’) of TACT does allow for a 48-hour detention at ports, for the purpose of establishing whether the person entering (or leaving) the country is a terrorist. Riz’s detention goes so far beyond Schedule 7 provisions that it’s not even funny.

  2. Rose Elvern
    February 20, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Very scary. Thank you for writing this and letting CITIZENS of the World know…

  3. February 21, 2006 at 11:57 am

    Full contact details for Bedfordshire Police:

    Telephone +44 (0)1234 841212
    FAX +44 (0)1234 842133

    Woburn Road, Kempston, Bedfordshire, MK43 9AX
    General Email:

    The Chief Constable is Gillian Parker

  4. February 21, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    PS – They HAVE to take this to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. If the IPCC doesn’t take this seriously then it will be the final proof that the Police “watchdog” is a complete joke.

  5. February 21, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    indeed the world does need to know this… thanks again for pointing me your way and I have posted this link direct onto my blog…

    again, thanks!


  6. February 21, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    If the initial police/security officer started off the initial stop of this man by agreeing that she ‘believed’ his stated purpose of having been in Berlin, then to my mind, she has immediately undermined her own subsequent actions because surely you can only suspect and interview and search someone under TACT 2000 if you actually DON’T believe them..?
    Wasn’t it TACT 2000 that was used to arrest the heckler at the Labout Conference? Isn’t this alll proof that we now live in a Police State set up by New Labour, so-called ‘Party of the People?’
    …People – you need to DO something more – and that is write to your MP and encourage your friends and relatives to write to your MP and learn not to accept bull**** answers – if they don’t make sense to you – then they don’t make sense and that means that it isn’t an answer.

  7. February 21, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks for pointing me here. It’s a pretty disturbing story – and incidents like this are going to increase, unfortunately.

  8. Sean
    February 21, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Can you frogs feel the hot water yet?

    It will only get worse, and the funny thing is…most people want this to happen because it makes them feel safe.

  9. February 21, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    We know how the rogue nation behaves, torturing people across the world.

    Now we discover that the UK is collaborating with them, badly damaging my civil rights in the process.

    Both my grandfathers fought in WWI, to stop and reverse unprovoked attacks on other sovereign nations. My father just missed doing the same thing against Hitler.

    But on my shift, my nation has trashed 300 years and 2 Empires of (generally) acting honourably in order to suck up to Bush? For Bush? The man who attacked Iraq? Has Bush ever behaved honourably over anything?

    Don’t get me wrong, I worry about immigration into the UK. I can even imagine (perhaps support) doing what the Palestinians should have done to the Zionists, kick them all out before they became too strong.

    But that’s hugely different from the blatant clamp-down on free-expression we’re seeing with stories like this.

  10. Ali
    February 21, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    “She then asked me whether I would mind officers contacting me regularly in the future, “in case, for example, you might be in a café, and you overhear someone discussing illegal activities”

    Am I the only person who sees this as an incredibly ham-fisted attempt to recruit him as an informant for MI5?

  11. Dave Howl
    February 22, 2006 at 12:14 am

    All you people moaning about civil rights and all that shit, but if you got a bomb up your arse you would be the first to open your yaps about lack of security. You all know better than trained security profesionals. Get real – this is 2006 and this is reality.
    Dave , Canada

  12. Funny As Hell
    February 22, 2006 at 2:29 am

    hah you joined the bad guys now suck it up

    God Bless Switzerland

  13. February 22, 2006 at 10:28 am

    Disturbing … but can’t exactly say I’m shocked. I’d like to be shocked, but seems to me that his law was always bound to be misused in this way.

    Thanks to Lip for publishing.

  14. Clarence Stately-Holmes
    February 22, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Has it occured to anyone that Riz Ahmed is an actor (and if you know him, a relentless self-publicist) returning from a film festival where he has been publicising a film designed to appeal to middle class Leftistanis, and has most probably been behaving like a nob in passport control, in order to get a story on page 2 of the Guardian, and has succeeded admirably.

    Why are you people so narrow, look beyond people’s religions and the colour of their skin. The guy is an actor on the make, he’s landed a role in a Michael Winterbottom movie, and if you all troop off to your local UGC still filled with righteous indignation, mission accomplished, basically.

  15. February 23, 2006 at 5:54 am

    Now how are these actors living?

  16. February 23, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks to an anonymous donor for bringing this to a wider audience.

    This is exactly what we can expect from Blair. It will get much worse. This time, unlike 1933 no final solution is to be found, yet, on British Soil. We export our genocide to Afghanistan and Iraq – and soon Iran.

    At home blair just builds a bigger Bunker out of control of the judiciary, draconian laws against all civil liberties and such a loose definition of terrorism that Amnesty International has declared a general alarm.

    ” One area of concern is the vagueness of much recent legislation. The government’s definition of the word “terrorism” itself is subjective and “lends itself to abusive police practices”, the report says. Amnesty also condemns the lack of precision in listed offences such as having “links” with a member of an “international terrorist group”.

  17. J smith
    February 23, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Clarence Stately-Holmes you plank! If he was being “nob in passport control” he would have been arrested for public disorder and not under TACT – as the police have themselves confirmed. But do you accept that if it did happen, as described, it is horrific?

    “Why are you people so narrow.” We are not narrow – we just judge things on ‘facts’ as presented (by both parties including the police). Your interpretations are so ‘wide’ that you are willing to read anything between the lines to suit your own bias.

    You must of been one of those people who thought Saddam was behind 9-11 had chemical weapons and could strike Britain in 45-minutes after he said “I have no wmd’s”

  18. Clarence Stately-Holmes
    February 23, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    J Smith, your point is fair, but your grammar is appalling. Your mother must be crying into her lentil bake. I wouldn’t be surprised if next time you go home your room is strewn with piss-sodden back issues of G2, which your whole family will mysteriously attribute to the dog, but is actually their way of expressing massive dissatisfaction with your misuse of a perfectly good university education.

    It’s all very well working for the Soil Association, and marching round the streets of Chicester with a placard proclaiming Gordon Brown’s undisputable involvement in worldwide gerbil massacre, but if you can’t put a sentence together, God/Allah/Annan/Hattersley help you, you’re never going to get anywhere.

    In addition, your pseudonym is rubbish; if you’re acting on behalf of Equity, or some other pro-actor outfit, you need to get your act together, sunshine.

  19. J Smith
    February 24, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    “But your grammar is appalling.” – i’m a non conformist. i do not care whether my spelling is correct or not, as long as you get the message! Which you did and, may I add, failed to rebut.

    I feel sorry for you. You obviously have some ‘writing’ skills and yet you only use them to peddle Bush (and no it’s not a sly way of calling you a……) mantra. Find some better opinions dude.

    Furthermore, I know ignoramuses like you have a habit of being hypocritical but you must be kicking yourself now. I know how ‘anal’ you are about the misuse the of the English language you must go and just kill yourself now…you’ll be doing yourself, your family, your boyfriend and us a favour – no need to hear anymore of your brainwashed, head in the sand, Nazi concentration camp guard, lemming-like, apologist, ‘I was just following orders’, opinions.

    It don’t bother me but I know it will bother you

    What am I on about? it’s ‘Chichester’ you plank. Doh!

  20. Matt
    February 27, 2006 at 2:45 am

    Let’s avoid a slanging match and stick to the point in hand….

  21. admin
    February 27, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks Matt.

  22. jon
    February 27, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks for the info. The story is shocking, but as has been mentioned, there will likely be more of this type of intrusive behaviour by the authorities.

    A very interesting article is here

  23. Pingback: Robert Sharp
  24. Sam
    March 17, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    The film had a tremendous impact on many of me. I was left with many ideas in my head and in a state of shock. The actors were superb, especially Riz Ahmed. Being bylingual, i was extremely impressed by his Urdu. Is it possible to get a contact email address for him?

  25. Andrew Milner
    April 29, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Saw “The Road to Guantanamo” at the Press Club in Tokyo last Wednesday. First “official” screening in Japan.
    Looks like the mainstream media and entertainment industry are really starting to get a backbone at long last. And thanks a million Luton and Bedfordshite Police: Another shot to the foot. Money just couldn’t buy that type of free publicity. You star in an award-winning movie about human rights abuses, return from Berlin in triumph with your Silver Bear award, and before you can say “police brutality”, Gestapo UK detain and abuse you under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Brilliant. Those actors must have thought they were back in character. “Did you become an actor to support Islamic terrorism?” Did you join the police in order to continue your role of school bully, Officer Flashman?” I think authority is getting rattled; you only attract flack when you are over the target.
    Was struck by the level of incompetence and xenophobia displayed by US inquisitors and torturers. No wonder they got the Brits (MI5?) in to help with the dialect and cultural differences. And when that female inquisitor didn’t know whether the date on the video tape was Day/Month or Month/Day, this truly was the Theatre of the Absurd. No one seemed to grasp the possibility that the camera had been set to the wrong date. But as WC Fields would say: “Never give a sucker an even break and never wise up a chump.” “You were attending a bin Laden rally in Afghanistan in 2000.” “No way, chief. I was in Tipton all year working at Curry’s and visiting the police station once a week, ‘cos, like I was on probation, wasn’t I.” Seriously, does it really take nearly three years to check out this alibi? Looks like the lunatics have taken over the asylum. For a nation brought up on two-dimensional movies that wouldn’t convince a bright 12-year-old, Americans must be having difficulty adjusting to their role as “bad guys”. So the best way to cope with this identity crisis is to wear black hats and grow a moustache.

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