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UK/Europe: Special Branch pass over information on "suspected" demonstrators

The annual summit of the IMF and the World Bank in Prague on 26 September is expected to be attended by 23,000 delegates and politicians. The summit is being held at the former Communist Party's Palace of Culture now renamed the Congress Centre. A counter demonstration is planned by activists and the law enforcement agencies are planning for a repeat of confrontations in Seattle on 30 November last year at the World Trade Organisation meeting. The Czech police are working with Interpol and the FBI (who opened an office in Prague in the summer). They are are also being briefed by the police and security services of European countries from which demonstrators will come.

In mid-August Special Branch officers from Scotland Yard and officers from the public order unit went to Prague to offer information on UK citizens suspected of being likely to take part in the demonstration. A Scotland Yard source told the Guardian: "We went over to help them, though officially Prague did not ask for our assistance. We want to share our experience and our information". The newspaper also reported that the Scotland Yard delegation has offered the Czech authorities: "Files and photographs of demonstrators who have incited trouble in London.. as well as intelligence on potential troublemakers." It is likely that Special Branch officers will be in Prague during the summit to try and identify and target "suspects" from the UK.

The handing over of files on individuals suspected of being likely to take part in the demonstration on the basis of "intelligence" and photos is reminiscent of the similar passing of information on over 800 "suspected" football supporters during Euro 2000. In neither instance is it claimed that all the people concerned have been convicted of any offence (and if they had they would have in any case served out their sentence). Events at Euro 2000 led to the UK Football (Disorder) Act allowing the police to detain and bring before magistrates people thought likely to attend matches outside the UK - magistrates have the power to order the seizure of the person's passport. A Home Office official told Statewatch that there was no intention to extend the powers in the Football (Disorder) Act to cover political/environmental demonstrations.

Sources: Observer, 23.7.00; Guardian, 24.8.00; Statewatch bulletin, vol 10 no 3/4, June-August 2000.