A POLITICAL activist has accused Police Scotland of “disgraceful” treatment after officers used controversial anti-terror powers to detain and question her for hours at Edinburgh Airport.

Eleanor Jones, who had been in Edinburgh to attend her grandfather’s funeral, said she felt “violated” after handing over her mobile phone and laptop passwords to the officers.

She was also quizzed about the political beliefs of family members, including her twin brother Owen, who is a high-profile columnist for the Guardian.

Her treatment has fuelled calls for a rethink of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – the legislation used by the single force – which gives police sweeping powers in an airport.

Jones, a 33-year-old artist who lives in Berlin, said her police ordeal began in July after she travelled to Hamburg to take part in the anti-G20 demonstrations.

Around 15,000 police were on duty during an event that was marked by clashes between campaigners and law enforcement.

OPINION PIECE: Liberty on Schedule 7

In an interview with the Sunday Herald Jones said she was injured during a demonstration that included police using tear-gas and water concerns. She went on another protest twenty-four hours later, after which she walked to the new Hamburg concert hall with a friend.

After being stopped and searched, she was arrested and told she was suspected to be a member of the anarchist Black Bloc, which she is not.

“They didn’t like the fact I had black clothes on. And I was wounded. They were just arresting people on a pre-precautionary basis.”

She said she was put in a cell in a temporary detention camp for 30 hours in Hamburg – “it was a bit like being put in the back of a van” – where she was strip-searched and had her bra and tights taken off her.

She continued: “I came before a judge in a makeshift court on the Sunday afternoon. It was decided I would be let go at 10pm that day and I was released without charge since there was nothing to charge me with.”

Jones said she and others were held in the knowledge that they had done nothing wrong: “Part of the detention was to stop people protesting. It was to get people off the streets.”


Picture: Eleanor Jones

However, it was her subsequent treatment in Edinburgh that has caused a political row north of the border and triggered a debate on Police Scotland’s use of its terror powers.

Jones’ grandfather, who lived close to the Meadows in Edinburgh, passed away while she was in Hamburg. She flew to Newcastle and got a train to the capital for the funeral.

After spending time with family, she arrived at Edinburgh Airport in early August for a flight back to Berlin. She made her way through security and, after walking towards her gate, was met by two plain-clothed police officers.

She recalled: “It was clear they had expected me and came there to get me – they had a copy of my flight bookings.”

Jones said she was detained for several hours – missing her flight – and was “interrogated” about the political views of her and her family.

She said she was quizzed about her opinions on the UK Government, adding: “They asked about Hamburg as well.”

Jones also said the officers asked her to hand over her iPhone and laptop: “They scanned my data to see if there was anything to prove I was a terrorist. They were going through all my information.

“Once they had scanned and copied my phone’s data they gave it back to me. My laptop was posted back to me in Germany.”

Jones then moved to another location where her fingerprints and a DNA sample were taken.

She was released without charge, but is out of pocket as Police Scotland has not reimbursed her for the missed flight.

The force was able to detain Jones in this way due to the Terrorism Act 2000.

The legislation’s notorious Schedule 7 gives police huge powers to stop, search and hold individuals at ports, airports and international rail stations.

It can be invoked without an individual being suspected of involvement in criminal activity and there is no right to remain silent.

Officers can detain a person for hours and retain their belongings for up to seven days. It is an offence to wilfully fail to comply with a request made by an officer under this legislation.

In a case that generated international headlines in 2013, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald was detained at Heathrow for carrying files relating to information obtained by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Jones said Police Scotland was responsible for a “misuse of the Act” in her case and said the legislation was used as a “power tool”. She added: “Being an activist is not the same thing as terrorism.”

On the officers at Edinburgh airport, she said: “When they told me what they claimed to be terrorism they said ‘we call vandalism terrorism’.”

On giving up her passwords she said: “I felt very violated, but then I had no choice. I knew if I refused to do it, it would make the situation worse.”

She added that the force will not tell her what, if any, information Police Scotland retains on her.

In a letter to Labour MSP Neil Findlay, Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Steve Johnson confirmed that Schedule 7 powers were used when officers stopped Jones at the airport.

He added that officers, in completing a Schedule 7 examination, have to ask questions as to whether the individual has been “concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.

Johnson said he recognised this would have been a “difficult and potentially daunting” experience for Jones, but said she would not have been subject to an “interrogation” as described in Findlay’s correspondence.

Johnson said Jones’ wider family are not, and were not, the subject of a Police Scotland enquiry and said the seizure of her mobile phone and laptop, as well as the DNA and fingerprint sampling, were carried out “within the bounds of the legislation”.

However, Findlay said: “This is a pretty remarkable case. Here we see a young woman political activist being detained under anti-terror legislation by Police Scotland, with her phone and laptop content scanned and copied and DNA samples taken. She was treated like a dangerous terrorist – all because she was involved in campaigning against the impact of globalisation.

“The response from Police Scotland to my questions about this case are wholly unsatisfactory. I will be writing to the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson. Of course we have to ensure the police can deal with dangerous terror suspects but this case highlights how the powers they can be misused. We need to ensure that Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act is not be misused or wrongly applied.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson added: “Police officers at ports play a key role in countering the current terrorist threat and maintaining national security. Our officers work tirelessly to protect our communities from all manner of threats and where they utilise powers available to them under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 it’s important to note this is not a decision which is taken lightly. We take great care to minimise any inconvenience to any members of the public we engage with and adhere to the codes of practice around the use of this legislation.”