Sunday, 25 May 2008

'Terror' on campus?

Recently, Rizwaan Sabir (a postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham) and Hicham Yezza (a former student and current employee of the University, and a peace activist) were arrested on suspicion of owning 'terrorist materials'. It was widely reported in the local news. Their 'crime'? Downloading and emailing an al-Qaeda handbook which was freely avaliable on the web, including from a US government website, as part of Rizwaan Sabir's politics research. The Muslim News seems to have the best details.

There are several aspects to this story which I find deeply disturbing. It's clearly a misuse of terror legislation and an attack on academic freedom, with racist overtones: Alf Nilsen, a research fellow in law and social sciences, is quoted in the Times Higher Education Supplement as saying that it is "occurring in tandem with several other attempts by UK authorities to increase surveillance of the academy and, in particular, non-Western students and staff". A police officer is being reported as saying that "This would never have happened if he had been a white student."

A protest will be held on Wednesday 28th May at 2pm outside the Hallward Library on campus. Academics from the University of Nottingham will be doing a public reading of the research material that led to arrests under the Terrorism Act, followed by a silent protest where students and academics will symbolically gag themselves to object to the attack on academic freedom.

Secondly, Hicham Yezza has been re-arrested on immigration charges- despite having been in the UK for 13 years as a student and now employee of the university, who are meticulous about checking visas and paperwork. An attempt is being made to deport him, probably to make him appear guilty. A corresponding campaign is being mounted, which has already been picked up by the Independent on Sunday: if it is to succeed, it needs to act quickly, as the deportation could happen as soon as Tuesday 27th May if the current appeal fails.

Like the attack on academic freedoms, these deportations seem to be getting more common. We need to act. Please take as many of the following actions as you can:
- attend the protest, outside the Hallward Library on Nottingham University Campus at 2:00pm on Wednesday, 28 May;
- circulate the press release about Hicham Yezza, by word of mouth, blogging, writing, and whatever other method you like;
- write to your MP asking them to write to the Immigration minister, Liam Byrne, in support of Hicham Yezza.

(further information and corrections welcomed)


Anonymous said...

You'll find a Facebook group in support at

kathz said...

I've found a pdf file of Ceasefire, a student peace magazine edited by Hicham Yezza. It gives a good idea of the kind of concerns he was involved with. It also shows the range of his interests and writing - on page 5 there's a fabulous piece called The future of the World - as seen from an airport. It's at

Steven said...

This is interesting, but I have to believe there is more to this than is presented. What is the basis of his deportation? Is his visa truly in order or is he just "meticulous" about it? Do we believe that his downloading and emailing a document off a US gov't website or is there something else? Without comment from the prosecution, this is meaningless.

bookgeek:rhiannon said...

Steven, I quite agree that it would be good to hear the full case from the other side. I continue to look out for words from those voices, but few have spoken publically if at all.

I'd also like to stress that what we campaigned for in Hich's case was a fair hearing; we did not seek to predict the outcome of same.