Doctor cleared of terror charge over ‘faulty mobile phone’

A doctor who was accused of a terror offence by refusing to allow police officers access to his mobile phone has walked free from court.

Dr Issam Bassalat was cleared in court
Dr Issam Bassalat was cleared in court

Dr Issam Bassalat was pulled over by officers at Edinburgh Airport last year after he landed in the capital following a two week holiday in Spain.

Bassalat, 64, was said to have wilfully deceived the officers by repeatedly typing the wrong PIN code into the device while being interrogated at the airport.

Bassalat, of Parkgrove, claimed he told the officers he could not open the mobile phone because the device was faulty.

The doctor - who worked at Borders General Hospital, near Melrose - claimed the phone broke down while he and his four children were at Madrid Airport.

He said the fault resulted in the fingerprint function not working properly while also claiming he could not remember the PIN code.

Bassalat was eventually arrested and charged under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and he stood trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week.

The court heard evidence from DC Saeid Fadaei who said he and a colleague received intelligence that Bassalat was arriving in Edinburgh on a flight from Madrid at around 1.30am on January 6 last year.

DC Fadaei said he spent several hours requesting the doctor allow him access to the mobile phone’s contents but despite the medic using his finger and a PIN code the device would not open.

The officer said Bassalat was warned he would be arrested if he could not provide them access to the phone and he was subsequently cautioned and charged after failing to open the device.

Bassalat also gave evidence to the court and said the phone broke down in Madrid and as a result he was unable to allow the officers access to the device after landing in Edinburgh.

The doctor denied wilfully deceiving the authorities and stated he had “tried his best but it [the phone] was not responding”.

Sheriff Matthew Auchincloss was told the phone had not been analysed by the police to find out if it was faulty and following all the evidence being heard prosecutor India MacLean said the Crown was no longer seeking a conviction in the case.

Sheriff Auchincloss told Bassalat he was being found not guilty of the terror-related offence and the relieved medic walked free from the dock.

Bassalat was found not guilty of failing to furnish information in his possession by not providing a password or code to a mobile phone in his possession at Edinburgh Airport on January 6 last year.

The charge was prosecuted under Schedule 7, Section 53 of the Terrorism Act 2000.