London police charge man with terrorism over use of encryption

The police force used the controversial section 5 powers to charge the suspect with, among other things, "developing an encrypted version of his blog site."
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
(Image: file photo)

A man has appeared in court in London on six counts of terrorism -- one of which was related to researching and using encryption.

Samata Ullah, 33, appeared in court last week charged under the Terrorism Act 2006.

The Metropolitan Police said in a press release that Ullah was charged with one count of providing instructions in the use of encryption to a person who was preparing an act of terrorism.

But a second charge relating to his use of encryption cites a controversial statute under British law, which in the name of a terrorism offense can criminalize acts that on their own are legal.

Specifically, Ullah was charged with a count of preparing to engage in an act of terrorism namely by "researching an encryption program, developing an encrypted version of his blog site and publishing the instructions around the use of program on his blog site."

Ullah was charged under the controversial section 5 statute.

"Section 5 can criminalize acts that, on their own, would be completely legal -- if prosecutors can show that the end purpose of those acts might be terrorism," said Tayab Ali, a human rights lawyer, speaking to Vice News in 2014.

"Often intention is proven using things like internet search history," he said. "It is often described as 'thought crime,' and it doesn't apply in any other aspect of criminal law."

In this case, it was apparently adding encryption to his blog site -- something that many websites add nowadays to provide better security, stronger privacy, and peace of mind for users.

Ullah was remanded in custody and will appear before the Old Bailey criminal court in London later this month.

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