Campaigners demand independent inquiry into alleged airline discrimination

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has insisted a local investigation is appropriate into claims a Muslim woman was stopped and questioned for reading a book about Syrian culture on a plane.

Aug 21, 2017

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has insisted a local investigation is appropriate into claims a Muslim woman was stopped and questioned for reading a book about Syrian culture on a plane. Faizah Shaheen was questioned for half an hour under Schedule 7 at Doncaster Airport after staff on a flight back from Turkey spotted her reading Syria Speaks: Art and Culture From the Frontline. Ms Shaheen complained about South Yorkshire Police’s handling of the case, accusing it of a disproportionate response to the situation. Her lawyers at Liberty – which has long held that Schedule 7 powers are “breathtakingly broad and intrusive” – have demanded a national independent inquiry. However, after receiving a referral from the force, the IPCC decided that it should be locally investigated. The IPCC said the “most serious and the most sensitive” cases are subject to independent investigations. A spokesperson said: “The referral, from South Yorkshire Police, was thoroughly assessed – as are all referrals to the IPCC – and the decision taken that this matter should be investigated, and should be carried out locally by the force. “If a person is unsatisfied with the outcome of the local investigation, they have the right to appeal to the IPCC.” Ms Shaheen claims her book – a collection of works by Syrian artists and writers – was mistaken for a ‘Syrian phrasebook’ despite there being no such language. She says she was questioned for around half an hour on topics including her work and the number of languages she spoke. Thomson Airways explained that its staff undergo regular security awareness training and are instructed to share any concerns with police. Solicitor Lara ten Caten, from Liberty, told Buzzfeed News: “The IPCC should investigate complaints relating to discrimination. This was a clear case of racial prejudice and it is completely inappropriate for South Yorkshire Police to look into the matter itself. “The IPCC must rethink this decision and at least supervise any local investigation. “How else can Faizah and the many other people affected by the routine abuse of this chillingly broad power know there is any hope of justice?” A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “Any reports of concerns around airport and airline security and safety will always be taken seriously and the correct procedure followed.”

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