The Global War on Freedom has struck the UK front again. A graduate student at Nottingham University, Rizwaan Sabir, was arrested and held for six days because he downloaded an Al Qaeda manual from a US government web site for his research on Al Qaeda tactics. HJis friend, university staff member Hisham Yezza, whom Sabir had asked to print the 1,500 page manual to save costs, is scheduled to be deported to Algeria. If deported, Yezza is in danger of being detained and, possibly, tortured.
Here is a Guardian article. Below the article is a Press Release from concerned Nottingham students and faculty:
Student researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days
By Polly Curtis and Martin Hodgson
A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the “psychological torture” he endured in custody.
Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.
The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a “prevent agenda” against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.
Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrator’s computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabir’s family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.
Dr Alf Nilsen, a research fellow at the university’s school of politics and international relations, said that Yezza is being held at Colnbrook immigration removal centre, due to be deported on Tuesday.
“If he is taken to Algeria, he may be subjected to severe human rights violations after his involvement in this case. He has been in the UK for 13 years. His work is here, his friends are here, his life is here.”
Of his detention, Sabir said: “I was absolutely broken. I didn’t sleep. I’d close my eyes then hear the keys clanking and I would be up again. As I realised the severity I thought I’d end up in Belmarsh with the nutcases. It was psychological torture.
“On Tuesday they read me a statement confirming it was an illegal document which shouldn’t be used for research purposes. To this day no one has ever clarified that point. They released me. I was shaking violently, I fell against the wall, then on the floor and I just cried.”
Bettina Rentz, a lecturer in international security and Sabir’s personal tutor, said: “He’s a serious student, who works very hard and wants a career in academia. This is a great concern for our academic freedom but also for the climate on campus.”
Students have begun a petition calling on the university to acknowledge the “disproportionate nature of [its] response to the possession of legitimate research materials”.
A spokesman for Nottingham University said it had a duty to inform police of “material of this nature”. The spokesman said it was “not legitimate research material”, but later amended that view, saying: “If you’re an academic or a registered student then you have very good cause to access whatever material your scholarship requires. But there is an expectation that you will act sensibly within current UK law and wouldn’t send it on to any Tom, Dick or Harry.”
At its annual conference next week the University and College Union will debate a motion on “assaults on academic freedom by the DIUS [Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills]“. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: “If we really want to tackle problems like extremism and terrorism, then we need to be safe to explore the issues and get a better understanding. The last thing we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue or research a subject because they fear being arrested or reported.”
The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, said: “The government does not want to or has never asked for staff or students to spy on their colleagues or friends. We want universities to work with staff and students on campus to isolate and challenge the very small minority who promote violent extremism.”
Sabir’s solicitor, Tayab Ali, said: “This could have been dealt with sensibly if the university had discussed the issue with Rizwaan and his tutors. This is the worrying aspect of the extension of detention [under the Terrorism Act]. They can use hugely powerful arrest powers before investigating.”
Contact: Sam Walton, 07948590262
From: a group of concerned students and academics at the University of
For immediate use, 24/05/08 SATURDAY
Notts Uni detainee innocent but still facing deportation
Hicham Yezza, a popular, respected and valued former PhD student and
current employee of the University of Nottingham faces deportation to
Algeria on Sunday 1st June. This follows his unjust arrest under the
Terrorism Act 2000 on Wednesday 14th May alongside Rizwaan Sabir and
their release without charge six days later.
On his release Hicham was re-arrested under immigration legislation and,
due to confusion over his visa documentation, charged with offences
relating to his immigration status. He sought legal advice and
representation over these matters whilst in custody. On Friday 23rd May,
he was suddenly served with a deportation notice and moved to an
immigration detention centre. The deportation is being urgently
Hicham has been resident in the U.K. for 13 years, during which time he
has studied for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in
Nottingham. He is an active member of debating societies, a prominent
member of an arts and theatre group, and has been writing editorials for
the Student Peace Movement magazine for the last five years. He is well
known and popular on campus amongst the university community and has
established himself as a voracious reader and an authority on literature
and music. An application for British citizenship was underway, and he
had been planning to make his yearly trip to Wales for the Hay Festival
when he was suddenly arrested.
Alf Nilsen, a research fellow at in the school of Politics and
International Relations says “This is a clear case of the police trying
to cover up their completely unjustified targeting of these two innocent
men by making Hicham look guilty by deporting him. Hicham is entirely
innocent and the rushed and heavy-handed way in which the authorities
are dealing with this matter is outrageous.”
Contact: Sam Walton 07814683906, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Musab
Younis: 078901018073, email@example.com
We’re focussing our campaigning on the following areas:
1) Lobbying the Home Office We have been made aware that a call from
an MP to the Home Office, in particular Liam Byrne, the relevant
minister, has the possibility to stop the deportation in its tracks. One
major focuses is trying to get particular MPs to make this
representation. If the MPs we have close contact with are unsuccessful
in the immediate short term, we will be encouraging more and more people
to contact their MPs to make representations.
Direct representations to the Home Office are presumably relevant as
well, as are representations to other parts of government (up to and
including Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown etc.), which we will be pursuing if
our initial efforts are not successful.
please keep us informed of any such contact as we will be trying to keep
track of which MPs have been ‘lobbied’ and whether this has been
2) Legal challenge The main legal avenue is to seek an injunction,
which would basically grant a stay of deportation. Whilst the cost of
this is minimal we are seeking to build up a legal fund as we anticipate
that future legal costs may mount. If an initial stay of deportation is
received it seems likely that there would be much more legal work to be
done to ensure Hicham’s release. Our understanding is that if Hicham’s
immediate deportation was stopped he would then have to face the
We are looking to get the best possible legal advice and would
appreciate any recommendations for relevant specialist solicitors that
may be available. That said we are receiving recommendations all the
time and have many avenues to explore through the experience of some of
our members in anti-deportation campaigns in relation to asylum.
3) Media We are working to mount a coherent and sustained media campaign
and we’re already off to a flying start. We are seeking first to work
through known reliable journalists so that we get the right message out
first, before moving on to sending out press releases en masse. We would
very much appreciate contact details for journalists which people can
We would appreciate help from yourselves in any way you feel possible.
However here are a few things we have thought of:
First of all money to cover legal costs is a huge concern of us at the
moment. We would appreciate any contributions either from the Party
itself or personal donations and if you were able to spread this message
throughout the party we would be very grateful. We are in a situation
where even small amounts would make a real difference with the added
benefit that it is a clear demonstration of solidarity which will
inevitably boost moral and make a reality our aim of having the broadest
possible base of support.
Also if sitting MEPs or councillors were able to use their positions in
any way to either make formal representations, or simply to raise the
profile of the campaign we would be very grateful. We are already
working on model motions and resolutions for unions and similar
organisations, which could also be used in councils or parliaments.
Please send us any thoughts you have on these ideas and please pass on
this email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and our phone number
May 25th, 2008