Human rights organizations, freedom of speech groups, and the Brazilian government are among the plethora of groups condemning the detention and interrogation of the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is the Guardian reporter who has been working with Edward Snowden to expose widespread surveillance by the National Security Administration.

UK police detained David Miranda for nine hours under the UK’s controversial Schedule 7 anti-terrorism law. Police confiscated his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs, and games consoles. They did not arrest or charge him of any crime nor have they returned Miranda’s possessions, according to the Guardian.

Greenwald, who lives with Miranda in Rio de Janeiro, said in a blog post he will not be intimidated.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic.

Schedule 7 grants police the right to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists for up to nine hours without granting them the right to have a lawyer present. There are no known reasons to suspect Miranda of being a terrorist, the Guardian said in a story. It is highly unusual to detain someone for nine hours under this act. According to the UK government’s own statistics, fewer than three percent of the Schedule 7 interrogation last more than an hour.

The Guardian said they believed the action was done to intimidate Greenwald.

The Brazilian government immediately condemned the detention in a statement on its website. “This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation.”

Human rights organizations agreed. “It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national … was detained at random, given the role his husband has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance,” Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International said in a statement.

“David’s detention was unlawful and inexcusable. He was detained under a law that violates any principle of fairness and his detention shows how the law can be abused for petty vindictive reasons,” Brown said. Reporters without Borders and several other free speech organizations also condemned the detention.

Heathrow was supposed to be a stopover for Miranda on a return from a trip to Berlin to his home country of Brazil. The trip was paid for by the Guardian. He was visiting Laura Poitras, a US filmmaker who has been working with Greenwald on the NSA surveillance stories.

Miranda told BBC that he was interrogated by six agents, who asked him about his life, and Greenwald’s reporting but did not quiz him about terrorism.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that Miranda was detained for the full nine hours, but did not comment further. Several UK politicians have denounced the move, asking for a full government inquiry.

 

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Alison Langley has more than 25 years experience in journalism as a reporter and editor. Her stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The FT and The Independent. She currently lectures in journalism at Fachhochschule Wien and Webster University Vienna.