Tuesday 27th September 2011
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
PALESTINE CAMPAIGNER WRONGFULLY ARRESTED AWAITS POLICE APOLOGY
A 64 year-old university lecturer who was wrongfully arrested and injured by police after taking part in a pro-Palestine publicity stunt said he is “disappointed” in the “dishonest” reaction of Lothian & Borders Police to last week’s ruling by the Police Complaints Commission Scotland (PCCS).
The PCCS has ordered police to apologise to Mick Napier, the chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), after ruling that, “there was no proper basis for his detention or arrest for failing to provide his details” back in May 2008 when a group of SPSC members had waved Palestinian flags from the top of an open-top tour bus.
Professor John McNeill, who heads the PCCS, also told the force to “review the effectiveness of handcuff tightness checks”, and criticised the police for “avoidably” injuring the English lecturer who was caught on video screaming in pain before police eventually slackened his handcuffs. The Commissioner told police, who had described Napier’s cries as “theatrical”, that “the applicant should not have been handcuffed and that the [wrist] injury sustained by the applicant was avoidable.”
The Commissioner described Napier’s case as relating to, “the fundamental issues around decisions by the police to deprive people of their liberty. There can be no greater test of public confidence in the police than the way they exercise their power to detain and arrest citizens.”
He went on to describe as “mistaken” the Deputy Chief Constable’s logic that although officers should not have detained Napier, they were justified in arresting him.
A statement from L&B Police said, “We note that the commissioner accepts that the officer involved acted in good faith during a difficult operational situation”.
But Napier has hit out at the L&B Police’ reaction: “Nothing in the Commissioner’s report says any such thing. Video evidence reviewed by the Commissioner shows a very relaxed group of officers prior to an unprovoked attack. The footage proves conclusively that police lied in their testimony to Professor McNeill.”
The Commissioner reminded police that officers, “must, when requesting certain information, inform the person of his suspicion and the general nature of the offence he suspects the person has committed.”
Napier, who spent 6 hours in a police cell, said he hoped that police now understood that, “I’m asking for your details because I’m asking for your details” is not a satisfactory explanation.
“I had hoped that this ruling, coming after years of attempted cover-up and whitewash, would persuade L&B Police to genuinely learn from this incident. Police officers who assault and handcuff a peaceful citizen without explanation, and then later describe their victim’s response to excruciating pain as ‘theatrical’, are a danger to anyone who crosses their path.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Details of incident, and links to short videos, at point 4 below.
1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches throughout Scotland, and members and supporters from Scotland and elsewhere.
For further information, contact:
2. The report of the Commissioner of the Police Complaints Commission Scotland can be downloaded in pdf format here: http://www.pcc-scotland.org/assets/0000/3606/PCCS-00383-10-PF_L_B.pdf
The Commissioner also issued a media release highlighting the Napier case, entitled, “Spotlight on police as Commissioner examines wrongful arrest claims”. This can be accessed here:
3. The Lothian & Borders Police statement is quoted in the Scotsman, 23rd September 2011, “Police finally apologise for wrongful arrest of protester”: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Police-finally-apologise-for-wrongful.6841081.jp
The Scotsman editorial (same date) also focuses on the story: “Leader: Half-hearted police apology unhelpful”: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/leaders/Leader-Halfhearted-police-apology-unhelpful.6841021.jp
4. On 17 May 2008, around 15 members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign had bought tickets and boarded an Edinburgh open-top guided bus tour. After a few minutes, the guide informed the driver that the group were waving Palestinian flags and a banner saying, “End the siege of Gaza”. The driver informed the group that as long as the banners were not hung down the side of the bus, there would be no issue.
Mick Napier was filming the bus from a car following behind. (Video here:
A passing bus supervisor who, along with the bus, was stuck in heavy traffic, saw the flags on the bus and boarded it. He told the group that they could not continue to do what they were doing, and that the driver was wrong to have given permission. Although the group were in the process of packing up their flags to leave, the supervisor, noticing a police vehicle nearby, left the bus to speak to the police officer.
Mr Napier was separated from the bus by heavy traffic and had no idea what was going on.
Around the same time as Mr Napier approached on foot to check on the bus, a vanload of police arrived. The officer in charge instructed his officers to “get everybody’s details”.
L&BP submissions to the PCCS investigation claimed, “The constable asked for his details, but Mr Napier replied: ‘I am declining’."
Video evidence reveals, however, the following dialogue:
Police officer: [Not clear] details please. Napier: Can I ask why? Police officer: Sorry? Napier: Can I ask why? Police officer: Because I am asking for your details. (Relevant video here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2197355647127
Napier was then violently pounced upon by a number of L&BP who handcuffed him, arrested him, and kept him at St Leonard’s Police Station for around 6 hours.
L&BP also submitted to the PCCS investigation that Napier was "being pretty loud on the pavement shouting about the treatment of Palestinians". Once again, however, the video reveals that at no time were any voices raised, except Mr Napier’s shouts of excruciating pain after application of the handcuffs.
In response to the PCCS ruling, L&BP stated "We note that the commissioner accepts that the officer involved acted in good faith during a difficult operational situation.” In fact, the Commissioner makes no such assertion. The video evidence shows a very relaxed group of officers prior to the sudden attack and handcuffing of Napier. The situation was neither tense nor difficult, and L&BP actions have been officially ruled entirely unjustified.
5. Napier was also illegally arrested, handcuffed and put in leg-irons, together with another Edinburgh man, retired Scottish Government statistician, Frank Thomas, before being jailed and deported by Israeli authorities back in July this year. Neither man was ever charged or told why they had been arrested after telling passport control officers in Tel-Aviv that they intended to travel to the West Bank town of Bethlehem. See Edinburgh Evening News, 13th July 2011, “Lecturer tells how group was imprisoned on Israel visit”: http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/Lecturer-tells-how-group-was.6800627.jp
6. Napier was amongst five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign charged with racially aggravated conduct after their Aug 2008 disruption of a concert by Israeli Army musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet.
After Sheriff James Scott dismissed the charges, the Herald’s front page reported, “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, rules sheriff”
The Herald, April 9th 2010: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/crime-courts/criticism-of-israel-is-not-anti-semitism-rules-sheriff-1.1019415
See the Sheriff’s ruling:
An SPSC media release on the ruling can be found here: