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July 7th People's Independent Inquiry Forum > UK Terror Raids & Trials > Two arrested at U of Nottingham

Title: Two arrested at U of Nottingham

numeral - May 15, 2008 08:47 PM (GMT)
Two men in campus terror arrest
Page last updated at 19:29 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 20:29 UK

Two men have been arrested at the University of Nottingham campus under the Terrorism Act, police have said.

Police said the men, aged 30 and 22, were arrested on Wednesday morning. One is reported to be a student and the other a former student.

They are being questioned while premises connected to them, including campus property, were searched.

Police said it was a joint operation between Nottinghamshire Police and the Midlands counter-terrorist unit.

Supt Simon Nickless from Nottinghamshire Police said officers had been working alongside community representatives to "offer support and reassurance".

He said the community's response had been "calm and rational" to the operation, described as "low-key".

Full co-operation

"Feedback is that people accept that this is the sort of operation that is necessary and reasonable for the welfare of communities," said Supt Nickless.

A uniformed presence is in place at the main Trent building, which houses the schools of English, modern languages and philosophy as well as management offices.

Jonathan Ray, a spokesman for the university, said the institution "has been co-operating fully from the outset throughout this inquiry".

He went on: "Nottinghamshire Police have stressed that there is no risk to the university community or to the wider public.

"Here, at the institution, we fully accept that this sort of police operation is necessary and reasonable for the welfare of our communities."

Bridget - May 21, 2008 07:23 PM (GMT)
I grabbed this off U75:
A 22 year-old student and a 30 year-old postgraduate member of staff were arrested on Wednesday of last week under terrorism legislation. They were held for 7 days without charge and released this Tuesday having been cleared of all offences.

Their original arrest was caused by the accusation from the university that they had been involved in accessing 'radical material', yet it appears that the material in question is readily accessible on the internet and directly relevant to the students studies.

Those involved might have put the whole thing down to experience were it not for the context. Recent years have seen a steady stream of political protests on campus on issues ranging from Starbucks to the war in Iraq. All have passed off peacefully, yet earlier this year the police were called to deal with a protest by the Palestinian Society where they erected a mock wall, in reference to the wall in Israel/Palestine.

At this protest a passer-by was arrested for disagreeing with the police about how they had responded to the protest. You can see the arrest towards the end of the following you tube clip:

This unprecedented arrest sparked a Freedom of Speech campaign at the campus which saw widespread support. The assumption was always that people in the administration may not have liked this, but they were notable by their silence and it was assumed that the point had been well made.

The terror arrests throw this all up in the air though. The two arrested are well known as being involved in political campaigning on campus and the idea of them being involved in terrorist activity was seen by anyone who knew them as ludicrous. The feeling was that the university was almost certainly aware of the ridiculousness of the accusations as well.

One of the university's press statements seems to point towards what may have been happening.
“The University works closely with the Students’ Union to promote dialogue, understanding and respect between student societies and is proactive in meeting regularly with representatives of key cultural groups. We also work closely with chaplains and faith groups, not only to meet the needs of students from particular faiths, but also to balance the interests of particular cultural or religious groups with those of the wider campus community. Where individual or group action unsettles the harmony of the campus, the University is committed to working through established channels to reinforce the values and standards that underpin a diverse and tolerant environment.”

The implication seems to be that the University has been 'working through established channels' (i.e. calling the police up and alleging acts of terrorism) to deal with individuals unsettling the 'harmony of the campus' (i.e. protesting about international issues).

All sounds perfectly fine doesn't it?

By 1500 both detainees had been released with all charges dropped, however, the younger student was re-arrested on immigration grounds. That's a student who had been happily studying at the University all year now discovered to have uncertain immigration status.

If you are at all disturbed by these events, please feel free to email the Vice Chancellor at who will give a full explanation of exactly what is happening.


Mark Gobell - May 25, 2008 07:35 AM (GMT)
Lenins Tomb

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Arrested for Excessive Diligence posted by lenin

A number of people have brought this shocking story to my attention. An MA student at the University of Nottingham named Rizwaan Sabir and a 30 year old clerical staff member, Hisham Yezza, were arrested by armed* police under the Terrorism Act 2000, and held for six days without charge. The student downloaded a supposed 'Al Qaeda' training manual from a US government website as part of his dissertation on 'Islamic extremism'. I will just mention that there is some doubt as to the document's provenance, which is proliferating in different variations all over the internet. Rizwaan forwarded it to a friend in the Department of Engineering for printing because he couldn't afford the printing costs (1,500 pages at what I guess is 5 pence a page is seventy give quid). Someone, somehow, saw this material on Yezza's computer and, thanks to the culture of prying and snitching encouraged by the government and right-wing media, assumed the worst and told the University authorities. The authorities, instead of checking with the staff member in question, or even making a roundabout preliminary investigation, called the police. The reason the authorities give for this is that Yezza was a clerical member of staff (although he had studied at the University) and therefore no threat to academic freedom was involved. The pair's homes were raided and their families harrassed during the six days of detention. The pair were released on 20 May, but Hisham Yezza was subsequently re-arrested on an unrelated immigration issue and is now at Colnbrook detention centre awaiting deportation to Algeria. The Guardian writes:

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."

All of this because the student downloaded a publicly available document in the context of properly directed research. The University authorities had every reason to be aware of the nature of that research and could easily have checked all the relevant facts before ratting on one of their students. So, should this material be banned for the purposes of study? Why don't you have a look at it and tell me? If the US Department of Justice website removes the document for any reason, you can always see it here and here. In fact, the Pavilion Press have published a version which you can purchase via Amazon. If this is an illegal document, as the police appear to have told this student, the cops haven't done much to block access to it. It's probably one of the most easily obtainable documents in the world. I frankly suspect that they were [making shit up] relying on an excessively liberal interpretation of some law that would usually not be applied to retrospectively justify the arrest. And how dangerous is it? Not enough to stop the US government making it available for public consumption.

Here is a press release by Nottingham University Students and Staff:

21 May 2008

Nottingham University Students and Staff Express Serious Concerns about
Recent Use of the Terrorism Act on Campus and Demand Academic Freedom

Following six days in police custody under terrorism legislation, two
well-known and popular members of the University of Nottingham – a student
and a member of staff – were released without charge on Tuesday, 20 May. A
growing number of students and staff wish to express grave concerns about
the operation on a number of grounds.

1. Academic freedom
The arrests were in relation to alleged 'radical material', which the
student was apparently in possession of for research purposes. Lecturers
in the student's department, as well as academics throughout the
university, are deeply concerned about the ramifications of this arrest
for academia, especially political research. An academic familiar with the
arrested student explained that his research topic was about contemporary
political issues that are highly relevant to current foreign policy. The
criminalisation of this kind of research is an extremely worrying sign for
academic freedom, suggesting sharp limits to what may be researched at

2. Racism and Islamophobia
One of the officers involved in interviewing academic staff openly stated
that: "This would never have happened if the student had been white." It
seems that the over-zealous nature of the operation, causing great injury
and distress to the students, their family, and friends, was spurred on by
the ethnicity and religious background of the students involved. Police
behaviour during the operation, including the apparent targeting of ethnic
minorities for questioning, also suggested institutional racism.

3. Use of Terrorism Act to target political activists
During questioning, the police regularly attempted to collate information
about student activism and peaceful campaigning. They asked numerous
questions about the student peace magazine 'Ceasefire', and other peaceful
student activities. The overt police presence on campus, combined with
increased and intimidating police presence at recent peaceful
demonstrations, has created a climate of fear amongst some students. Many
saw the operation as a message from the police that they are likely to
arrest those who have been engaged in peaceful political activities. There
is widespread concern in the community that the police are criminalising
peaceful activists using terrorism legislation, such as the Prevention of
Terrorism Act 2005.

4. Behaviour of the university
Many of the university's statements during this time have concerned and
angered students and academics. The university put out a great deal of
rhetoric during this period emphasising its support for the police,
refusing to acknowledge either the potential innocence of the people in
question, or the distress caused to them, their families, and friends.
University authorities also spoke of stopping groups or individuals who
"unsettle the harmony of the campus." This appeared to be a direct
reference to recent peaceful student activism and protest, suggesting that
the university is willing to clamp down on political protest using the
Terrorism Act 2000 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. One lecturer
from the School of Politics suggests that the university called the police
onto campus with the ultimate aim of creating a "depoliticised" body of
students and academics. Throughout this period, the university has
continually ignored the fear caused by police presence and investigation
into legitimate political research and activities. It has also ignored the
concern of staff and students about the criminalisation of research, the
racist and Islamophobic nature of the police action, and the worrying
indication that the university provided intelligence on its own members,
possibly racially profiling its staff and students.

Academics and students from across the University of Nottingham, and
members of the public from the wider community, are calling for:

a) The guaranteed right to academic freedom
b ) An end to the criminalisation of political research
c) An end to police and university racism and Islamophobia and the full
assertion of civil rights and liberties on campus

They demand that the University of Nottingham publicly:

a) Acknowledges the disproportionate nature of the police response
b ) Acknowledges the unreserved innocence of the student and staff member
in question
c) Apologises for the great distress caused to them, their families, and
their friends
d) Guarantees academic and political freedom on campus
e) Declares its commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of expression
on campus

To their credit, the staff and students of the University are preparing a public reading of the research material in question.. We're going to find out just how 'illegal' this document really is. If you can't be at the protest, you may as well download the document. I'm sure, readers, that you can do so without succumbing to the temptation to cause a conflagration.

* The University officially denies that the police were armed when they carried out their action.

Update: This is the status of Hisham Yezza's deportation process according to a press release by students, academics and local residents:

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 appealed.

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 written for, and edited, Ceasefire, the Nottingham 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.

The authorities are clearly trying to circumvent the criminal justice system and force Hicham out of the country. Normally they would have to wait for criminal proceedings to finish, but here they have managed to convince the prosecution to drop the charges in an attempt to remove him a quick, covert manner. The desire for justice is clearly not the driving force behind this, as Hicham was happy to stand trial and prove his innocence.

Hicham had a large social network and many of his friends are mobilising to prevent his release. Matthew Butcher, 20, a student at the University of Nottingham and member of the 2008-9 Students Union Executive, said, "This is an abhorrent abuse of due process, pursued by a government currently seeking to expand anti-terror powers. Following the debacle of the initial 'terror' arrests they now want to brush the whole affair under the carpet by deporting Hicham."

Supporters have been able to talk with Hicham and he said, "The Home Office operates with a Gestapo mentality. They have no respect for human dignity and human life. They treat foreign nationals as disposable goods - the recklessness and the cavalier approach they have belongs to a totalitarian state. I thank everyone for their support - it's been extremely heartening and humbling. I'm grateful to everyone who has come to my aid and stood with me in solidarity, from students to Members of Parliament. I think this really reflects the spirit of the generous, inclusive Britain we know - and not the faceless, brutal, draconian tactics of the Home Office."

Labels: 'war on terror', civil liberties, islamophobia, terrorism

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Kier - May 25, 2008 08:31 AM (GMT)
Research into Islamic terrorism led to police response

22 May 2008

By Melanie Newman

A masters student at the University of Nottingham who was arrested under the Terrorism Act under suspicion of possessing extremist material was studying terrorism for his dissertation, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Academics and students have expressed concerns about the police’s handling of the case, which saw police searching campus property.

Rizwaan Sabir, a 22-year-old who was studying in the politics department, was arrested along with a 30-year-old member of staff. Both were released without charge on 20 May after having been held in custody for six days.

Mr Sabir’s lawyer, Tayab Ali of McCormacks solicitors in London, told Times Higher Education that as preparation for a PhD on radical Islamic groups, Mr Sabir had downloaded an edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook from a US government website. It is understood that Mr Sabir sent the 1,500-page document to the staff member - who was subsequently arrested - because he had access to a printer. Mr Ali said: “The two members of the university were treated as though they were part of an al-Qaeda cell. They were detained for 48 hours, and a warrant for further detention was granted on the basis that the police had mobile phones and evidence taken from computers to justify this.”

The case highlights concerns that new anti-terrorism legislation allowing detention for 28 days without charge would lead to people’s being held for extended periods on the “flimsiest of evidence”, Mr Ali said.

“Why did it take so long for the police to reach the conclusions they did?” Mr Ali asked. “These are not unqualified police, they are the top counterterrorism command for the region. They should know the difference between a book that is useful for terrorism and one that is not.”

Academics at Nottingham have expressed deep concerns about the arrest’s implications for academic freedom. Bettina Rentz, a lecturer in international security and Mr Sabir’s personal tutor, said: “This case is very worrying. The student downloaded publicly accessible information and provoked this very harsh reaction. Nobody tried to speak to him or to his tutors before police were sent in. The whole push from the Government is on policy relevance of research, and in this case the student’s research could not be more policy relevant.”

Alf Nilsen, research fellow in law and social sciences, said: “What we’re seeing here is a blatant attack on academic freedom – people have been arrested for being in possession of legitimate research materials. How can we exercise our academic freedom if we are at risk of being arrested for possession of subversive material? This sets a very alarming precedent. Academic freedom on campus should be guaranteed for all staff and students regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.”

Dr Nilsen added: “I perceive the current incident at Nottingham to be occurring in tandem with several other attempts by UK authorities to increase surveillance of the academy and, in particular, non-Western students and staff, and moreover as an episode that is symptomatic of a more general curtailment of civil liberties in UK society, which seems to particularly affect and victimise non-Western citizens.”

Students at Nottingham are circulating a petition asking for the university to guarantee that the freedom of academics and students will be protected. It asks the university to acknowledge its “disproportionate response” to the possession of legitimate research materials.

A spokesman for Nottingham confirmed that the police had been called after material was found on the computer used by a junior clerical member of staff. “There was no reasonable rationale for this person to have that information,” he said. “The police were called in on the basis of reasonable anxiety and concern. In response to that, the police made a connection with a student who, we understand, was impeding the investigation and arrested that person.”

He added that the edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook was “not legitimate research material” in the university’s view.

A Nottinghamshire police spokesman said the police had applied for a warrant to extend the detention. “The judge was satisfied with the evidence presented and granted the extension,” he said.


Kier - May 25, 2008 08:35 AM (GMT)
'Draconian' Home Office fast-tracks Algerian's deportation

By Richard Osley
Sunday, 25 May 2008

The Home Office was accused last night of rushing to deport a university administrator to conceal official blunders after he was arrested on terrorism charges only to be released without charge. A Labour MP criticised the decision, claiming there was no reason for it "other than to cover the embarrassment of the police and intelligence services".

Hicham Yezza, 30, was arrested last week after he downloaded an al-Qa'ida training manual at the University of Nottingham. He was detained and questioned for six days with a second man, Rizwaan Sabir, a student.

Both men were released on Friday after it emerged that Mr Yezza had printed the document, which was downloaded from a US government website where it was freely available, at Mr Sabir's request. The university confirmed the document was being used for legitimate research purposes by Mr Sabir for his master's degree.

Upon release, Mr Yezza was immediately rearrested, served with a deportation order and taken to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. Mr Yezza, who comes from Algeria, had applied for leave to remain in the UK, where he has lived for the past 13 years. A hearing to decide his application was originally scheduled for July.

The Algerian's case has now been brought forward and if a frantic appeal fails he could be deported as early as Tuesday. Speaking from the deportation centre last night, Mr Yezza said immigration officials had "operated with a Gestapo mentality".

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said he had written to the Immigration minister, Liam Byrne, to protest. A "shocked" Mr Simpson said: "It seems to me that this is a clumsy response under anti-terrorism legislation to the incident at Nottingham University. I can see no reason for an emergency deportation other than to cover the embarrassment of police and intelligence services.

"Mr Yezza and his solicitors should be allowed far more than the bank holiday to make the case for his continued presence in the UK. To race him out of the country will provoke widespread protests against arbitrary deportation with no right to a proper hearing."

Speaking after his release, Mr Sabir, 22, whose family home was searched and computer scanned, said he was left "absolutely broken" by the experience.

Mr Yezza, known as "Hich", is described as a "popular face" on the campus. He contributed to debating societies, theatre groups and the Student Peace Movement magazine. Supporters said he would face groundless charges if he returned to Algeria.

In a statement last night, Mr Yezza said: "The Home Office operates with a Gestapo mentality. They have no respect for human dignity and human life. They treat foreign nationals as disposable goods – their recklessness and cavalier approach belongs to a cavalier state."

He praised the support he had received, saying it reflected "the spirit of the generous, inclusive Britain we know – and not the faceless, brutal, draconian tactics of the Home Office".

A spokesman for the Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.


Kier - May 25, 2008 08:41 AM (GMT)
Notts Uni detainee innocent but still facing deportation

24.05.2008 17:41 | Migration | Repression | Terror War | Nottinghamshire

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.

It has subsequently become clear that these arrests, which the police had claimed related to so-called "radical materials" involved an Al Qaeda manual downloaded by Sabir as part of his research into political Islam and emailed to Yezza for printing because Sabir couldn't afford to get it printed himself.

There has been a vocal response from lecturers and students. A petition is being circulated, letters have been sent by academics across the world and a demo is being planned for Wednesday. 28th May. This has clearly been deeply embarrassing to a government currently advocating an expansion of anti-terror powers.

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 appealed.

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 written for, and edited, Ceasefire, the Nottingham 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.

The authorities are clearly trying to circumvent the criminal justice system and force Hicham out of the country. Normally they would have to wait for criminal proceedings to finish, but here they have managed to convince the prosecution to drop the charges in an attempt to remove him a quick, covert manner. The desire for justice is clearly not the driving force behind this, as Hicham was happy to stand trial and prove his innocence.

Hicham had a large social network and many of his friends are mobilising to prevent his release. Matthew Butcher, 20, a student at the University of Nottingham and member of the 2008-9 Students Union Executive, said, "This is an abhorrent abuse of due process, pursued by a government currently seeking to expand anti-terror powers. Following the debacle of the initial 'terror' arrests they now want to brush the whole affair under the carpet by deporting Hicham."

Supporters have been able to talk with Hicham and he said, "The Home Office operates with a Gestapo mentality. They have no respect for human dignity and human life. They treat foreign nationals as disposable goods - the recklessness and the cavalier approach they have belongs to a totalitarian state. I thank everyone for their support - it's been extremely heartening and humbling. I'm grateful to everyone who has come to my aid and stood with me in solidarity, from students to Members of Parliament. I think this really reflects the spirit of the generous, inclusive Britain we know - and not the faceless, brutal, draconian tactics of the Home Office."


Contact: Sam Walton, 07948590262,


Kier - May 25, 2008 08:47 AM (GMT)
Student researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days

· Lecturers fear threat to academic freedom
· Manual downloaded from US government website

Polly Curtis and Martin Hodgson
Saturday May 24, 2008
The Guardian

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."


Kier - May 26, 2008 04:36 PM (GMT)

numeral - May 27, 2008 12:56 AM (GMT)

Kier - May 27, 2008 09:08 AM (GMT)

Kier - May 30, 2008 02:44 PM (GMT)
An article from a year quickly they forgot, heh?

Campus extremism request rejected
By Hannah Goff
BBC News education reporter in Bournemouth

Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK

Lecturers have voted unanimously to oppose government plans urging them to fight against extremism on campuses.

They had been asked to monitor and report suspicious behaviour amongst Muslim students.

But at the University and Colleges Union annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates rejected the demands, saying they amounted to spying on students.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said student trust would be undermined by fears of a "quasi-secret service".

In November, the government warned of what it described as the serious threat posed by radical Muslims and issued guidance to colleges and universities calling on them to monitor student activity.


But Ms Hunt said: "Lecturers have a pivotal role in building trust. These proposals, if implemented, would make that all but impossible.

"Universities must remain safe spaces for lecturers and students to discuss and debate all sorts of ideas, including those that some people may consider challenging, offensive and even extreme.

"The last thing we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue because they fear some quasi-secret service will turn them in."

The motion, from the union's transitional arrangements committee, expressed outrage at the "continuing escalation demonisation of Muslim and other minority communities", adding that this threatened to impinge on education.

It opposed the ethnic profiling of students and staff, and pledged to challenge the "incursions of the security and immigration services to university and college campuses".

The union would also defend the right of members to refuse to cooperate with attempts to "transform education into an extension of the security forces".


A separate motion, put forward by university lecturers in London, argued increased surveillance of Muslims and other minority students amounted to a "witch-hunt".

Presenting the motion, law lecturer at London Metropolitan University Mark Snaith said academics were there to inform students not inform on them.

"I teach law, I do not impose or enforce law, especially not bad legislation," he added.

Seconding the motion, lecturer Mark Campbell said: "Our universities are not hot beds of Islamic extremism that need to be cowed."

That message needed to be challenged, he added

He cited the case of a student from Swansea who was arrested and treated as a suspected terrorist after taking a picture of Tower Bridge.

Canteen bomb plot

The reason for his arrest was because he possessed a book on Islamic Jihad against the West, Mr Campbell said.

But this book was on the reading list for one of his university courses, he added.

UCU joint general secretary Paul Mackney said staff had been asked to report if they heard them planning a bomb attack in the canteen.

It was obvious staff would report the matter if they overheard such a thing, he said, but to their managers not to MI5 officers.

The academics said that although they would report illegal activity, they would not act as detectives.

"The strong message from this congress must be we will not spy on our Muslim or any other students," Mr Mackney added.

But Professor Anthony Glees, who wrote a report in 2005 warning that extremists were operating on campuses, said the problem must not be ignored.

"A significant number of people, either convicted of terrorist offences or who have admitted a guilt or who've been murdered or killed in the carrying out of their terrorist offences, have been students at British universities and colleges.

"The evidence is overwhelming. The recent trial 30th of April this year - three of the people who got life sentences had been students at British universities and London Metropolitan University itself is frequently been cited as a place of Islamist extremism."


Kier - May 30, 2008 02:50 PM (GMT)
Nottingham University staff and students stand up for academic freedom

29 May 2008

From a group of Nottingham residents, concerned students and academics at the University of Nottingham.
For immediate use, 29/05/08 THURSDAY

Today at the University of Nottingham academic staff gave a public reading from an Al-Qaeda training manual, outside the Hallward Library, University Park Campus. The demonstration expressed the outrage amongst staff and students after two innocent members of the academic community were arrested under 'terror' legislation in connection with this document, downloaded from an official US government website. Strong concerns were voiced over academic freedom at the university, in addition to a focus of support and solidarity with one of the arrested, Hicham Yezza (1). Hicham is an employee (2) within the School of Modern Languages, who is now facing imminent deportation on Sunday 1st June (3).

Around 500 staff and students gathered in front of the library to hear the readings of the alleged 'radical material'. Banners with messages such as 'protect academic freedom', 'Right to research', and 'Free Hich' were on display. Snacks, 'Free Hich' T-shirts and copies of Ceasefire (the peace movement journal of which Hicham is editor), were on sale to help raise money to cover Hichams' legal costs.

Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South attended to show his support for the demonstration. He described the arrests as a "dreadful cock-up". Addressing the university authorities he said, "how ashamed you should be of yourselves. How ashamed that you cannot come to the defence of one of your staff." Speaking on the terror legislation Simpson said, "we would live in a society where we fear each other and that is what the treatment of Hicham and Rizwaan actually demonstrates."

The protestors then marched across campus to Trent Building, the administrative centre of the university. A silent protest was held in the building courtyard, with protestors standing still and silent, symbolically gagged in the pouring rain. Hicham was called and addressed the protestors from detention. Hicham said, "I am humbled and buoyed by all the support I have received, and my spirits are high. Thank you everyone, you are a credit to Nottingham."

The demonstrators are demanding that the university offers full support to their employee, Hicham, who has made immense contributions to Nottingham life. The event successfully highlighted the outrage felt by large portions of Nottingham over the Home Offices' rushed and unjust attempt to deport such a valued member of the academic community, without a fair haring in a court of law.
Contact the Campaign
Phone: 07948590262 or 07505863957

Notes for editors

  1. Hicham's arrest took place on Wednesday 14th May. Rizwaan Sabir, an MA Politics research student was also arrested. Both were released without charge six days later. It has subsequently become clear that these arrests, which related to so-called "radical materials" involved an Al Qaeda manual downloaded by Sabir from an official US Government website, as part of his dissertation research into political Islam, and emailed to Yezza for printing.

  2. Hicham is employed as PA to the Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Professor Lesley Milne.

  3. Hicham was re-arrested on immigration grounds. Hicham was re-arrested under immigration legislation and charged with offences relating to his immigration status. On Friday 23rd May, the Home Office informed his solicitor that he was being removed on Sunday 1st June and Hicham was moved to an immigration detention centre. He now faces imminent deportation to Algeria without due process.

More Background from SACC

* ITV report (video) of the demo - 29 May 2008
* Terror Law Arrests at Nottingham - statement by students and staff - 21 May 2008
* Lecturers reject government call to spy on students - 30 May 2008
* UCU critical of government advice on extremism - 17 November 2006
* Edited Al Qaeda Training Manual , downloadable from the website of Air University, the USAF Air University (originally downloaded by Air University from the US Department of Justice website). The accompanying note from the Department of Justice says "The Department is only providing the following selected text from the manual because it does not want to aid in educating terrorists or encourage further acts of terrorism."

[url=]Original article with links and pictures[/url

numeral - May 31, 2008 10:05 AM (GMT)

'This is not the way I should have been treated in a country I love'

Held over al-Qaida manual used for research, Hicham Yezza gives first interview

Polly Curtis and Anthea Lipsett
Saturday May 31, 2008
The Guardian

user posted image
Nottingham South MP Alan Simpson joins students as they protest against the imminent deportation of Algerian Hicham Yezza on Wednesday. Authorities later relented. Photographer: Rui Vieira

For more than a decade, Nottingham university felt like the safest place in the world for Hicham Yezza as an undergraduate, doctoral student, campus activist and, most recently, employee. But two weeks ago his world caved in when he was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

The 30-year-old Algerian was detained by police for possessing a copy of the al-Qaida training manual that he had been given to print by a friend researching the terrorist group's techniques for his MA.

University officials called in the police after a colleague noticed the document on his computer. Yezza and his friend, 22-year-old student Rizwaan Sabir, were held for six days despite Sabir's tutors giving statements within two days that the document was directly relevant to his research.

They were released without charge, but up until a last-minute reprieve yesterday Yezza had been threatened with deportation on Sunday, charged with a separate immigration offence.

The chain of events has made him a martyr to academic freedom in the eyes of a growing campaign group of lecturers and students, who say that the government's anti-terror agenda is putting pressure on universities to spy on their members to monitor signs of extremism.

Some lecturers now claim that "self-censorship" is rife on campuses.

In his first interview, Yezza, speaking from Colnbrook immigration removal centre near Heathrow, said he had been betrayed by the authorities of a country he loved, respected and felt part of.

"This is not the way I should have been treated. It is hurtful to see myself being treated this way in a country I love, would protect and where I've done everything I can to engage with and be a good citizen."

Yezza came to the UK on a presidential scholarship to study a BSc in computer science and management studies. He went on to do an MA and embarked on a PhD in video compression techniques.

Since last year he had been employed as a personal assistant to the head of the modern languages school at the university. He has been a prominent figure on the Nottingham campus as general secretary of the international students bureau and a founder of the student peace movement.

Yezza said his situation highlighted a growing fear on campuses. "It's a very, very worrying trend that needs to be opposed, this mindset that views everything with extreme suspicion. That installs some sort of 'play it safe' mentality, which is the very opposite of intellectual endeavour.

"No intellectual progress takes place without a sense of curiosity, without a sense of going beyond what we know already, beyond the established facts and notions and truths; that's how scientific and intellectual revolutions have been achieved."

He has sympathy for the university. "Someone could be forgiven, in this current climate, for panicking at this type of document. But I would have appreciated had I been given five minutes simply to answer the questions relevant to the document. Once the procedure was launched it was quickly out of the university's hands."

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, has accused the police and intelligence services of attempting to cover up their embarrassment over the initial arrest by bringing the immigration charges - which are still subject to court proceedings.

The Home Office yesterday cancelled plans to deport Yezza tomorrow after his lawyers sought a judicial review and representations were made to the home secretary by both the University and College Union and the University of Nottingham.

The university, which refused the Guardian an interview, is under intense scrutiny from its own academics. More than 300 supporters of Yezza campaigned at the university campus this week, some dressed in Guantánamo-style orange suits marked "academic researcher", while others read from the al-Qaida manual to illustrate the fact that it is legal unless being used for illegal purposes.

Yezza's supporters and academics, many of them attending the University and College Union conference in Manchester this week, are now talking of the pressure they face to become "police informers" on their students, part of the government's "preventive agenda" which has seen universities and colleges provided with guidance on how to spot and tackle extremism.

Gavin Reid, a member of the UCU national executive committee from Leeds University, said people were scared to do research and speak out. "Self-censorship is coming," he said. "People are more suspicious of colleagues and students. People are scared even to look at the link [for the training manual in the Nottingham case]."

Catherine Pope, a Southampton university academic who edits a journal, said she had sought legal advice twice on particular articles to "protect the journal and association". "What worries me is this self-censorship and gradual erosion of our academic freedom, and before we know it we will be self-censoring and will not be able to change it."

Alf Nilsen, of Nottingham's school of politics, said: "Hicham was a very prominent member of student political society. That says something about the potential implications of being politically active on campus in a time when a culture of fear merges with draconian terror legislation.

"It's a question of intellectual freedom, not just academic freedom. What does this say about people's right to inform themselves about issues of public concern?"

numeral - June 2, 2008 09:49 AM (GMT)
Press Release - Hicham Refuses To Be Transported To Fifth Detention Centre (31/05/08)

Following the cancellation order on his deportation and despite being unjustly incarcerated for over two weeks, Hicham Yezza has received news that he is to be transported to a fifth detention centre. He released this statement today from Colnbrook immigration removal centre:

“I have just been informed that I am to be moved to a detention centre in Dover. This would be the fifth movement in 9 days and is therefore unacceptable. It is deeply saddening for both myself and my visitors; it is also a great source of distress at this time and an affront to human dignity and my human right to be treated with respect and consideration. I am thus categorically refusing to go.

I am not a piece of luggage but a human being, and deserve to be treated as such.”

Despite the existence of a long term facility adjacent to Hicham’s current location he is once more being transported. Hicham’s dignity should not come second to the interests of private sector detention centres whose main aim is to delay release procedures and maximise profits. Given that the outcome of his bail application is imminent further transportation is unnecessary, such disruption would not only violate Hicham’s right to private life through contact with visitors and the outside world, but also places a needless burden on the tax payer.

numeral - June 11, 2008 12:39 AM (GMT)
'It really is psychological torture'

With MPs voting today on a new, 42-day detention limit for terror suspects, Lee Glendinning spoke to a 23-year-old student about what it is like to be detained under the existing terrorism legislation

    * Lee Glendinning
    * Wednesday June 11 2008

Lee Glendinning spoke to Rizwaan Sabir about what it is like to be detained under terrorism legislation

"A minute goes like an hour and an hour like a day inside a cell … You lose all concept of day or night. There are no emotions: you can't cry, you can't laugh…

"Six days felt like six years. I dread to think what 42 days would feel like: 28 days is harsh enough … the idea of 42 days is phenomenal.

"The ironic thing is, paedophiles, murderers, bank robbers, kidnappers and extortionists are held for four days - 96 hours maximum time. And terror suspects are on a par with all of those."

Rizwaan Sabir, 23, a student at Nottingham University, found himself detained in a segregated and sealed-off prison wing last month, arrested and held under the Terrorism Act after arriving at university and catching up with a friend for coffee.

For six days, he was kept in prison without charge, under 24-hour surveillance and interrogated daily about his views on al-Qaida and Islamic literature.

It was a subject close to his heart. Four months earlier, Rizwaan, who was doing his masters in international relations, had clicked on an al-Qaida document online while researching his dissertation, which focused on the difference between various military organisations. The document was an edited version of the al-Qaida training manual, downloaded from a US government website.

After completing a substantial chunk of the work in January, he sent the document to a colleague, Hisham Yezza, 30, who worked on campus and had access to a free printer.

On the morning of May 14, Rizwaan could have had no idea that his next week would be spent in a cell, accused of the commission and preparation of an act of terrorism, the issue of whether he would be charged or not hanging in the balance.

"After the coffee I put my stuff down and walked into the gents. As soon as I walked in, there were three policemen behind me saying 'Don't move! Don't Move! Who are you?' And I was like, 'I'm a student. Who are you?'

"They said: 'Well, we are police officers looking for someone who matches your description.'''

Shortly afterwards, they arrested him under section 41 of the Terrorism Act for the alleged commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism; Hisham Yezza had been arrested 10 minutes beforehand.

When Rizwaan reached the police station, the second floor had been entirely sealed off. It was, he said, like some form of solitary confinement.

"The restricted access made me feel like a real criminal. It felt like I was in the seventies - the lights were off and there was one table; all the cells were empty. I thought, 'What the hell is going on here?'"

For the first 48 hours, he was told nothing, but was placed under 24-hour surveillance.

''They watched everything you did and wrote it down. I would read a book and they would write down what I was reading. They would follow me when I had a shower and stand right there. You couldn't take one step out of the cell without someone following you. They would stop and do random searches of the cell. It was so humiliating

"Day six was the hardest. Knowing your life depends on a decision that someone else takes ... when you have done something with the most clean-hearted intention. It really is psychological torture.''

Officers from the West Midlands counter-terrorism branch told him they were searching his car, computer and the family home, making him feel panicked about his family's reaction. His mother, father, grandmother and two siblings were at home in the suburbs of Nottingham.

His colleagues on campus were also questioned in relation to the investigation, with the focus on whether he had a girlfriend, whether he drank alcohol and whether he had always worn a beard.

"They were quizzed by police for five hours … they said to my personal tutor that if this had been a young, blond, Swedish PhD student, then this would never have happened. The investigating officers were making these statements when I was detention."

At one point, officers began asking him about tents they had found in his car, which he explained belonged to friends who had used them while taking part in a hunger strike.

''They found the tents and were trying to create an adverse influence. 'Have you been camping?' they asked 'Are you planning to go camping? Have you been paintballing? Are you planning to go paintballing?'''

On the sixth day, without realising his freedom was imminent, he was told by a female police officer that the document he had looked at was deemed illegitimate for research purposes by the university, and if he ever looked at it again he could face further detention. He believed he was about to be charged.

He said: "It was breaking … absolutely terrifying, I was sitting there thinking, 'God, am I ever going to get out of here?'"

When told he was to be released without charge, he walked into the room to speak with his solicitor.

"I was shaking so violently I fell to the floor. I went back to the room and just cried and cried … Somehow, I had managed to get my emotions back.''

Returning home to his family was traumatic in its own way: the house, he said, no longer felt like the home he knew. It had been searched, his belongings had been taken, his room felt like it had been rummaged through, and his home felt like it had been broken into.

He still feels a sense of dread when he sees police or hears a siren. He thinks about the possibility he could have been charged, that he could be waiting right now on remand for a court date. He finds the idea of returning to study a difficult one - although it is what he wants - and is seeking counselling for an experience he says has scarred him deeply.

Rizwaan's colleague, Hisham Yezza, was also released without charge after six days, but he is now being held in a detention centre and contesting moves to deport him to Algeria.

Concerned about what he calls the climate of fear the government has created in Britain, which he says has in turn prompted a society of suspicion, Rizwaan feels the UK is becoming a place that does not allow a natural interest and involvement in politicisation.

"Police are paranoid that every Muslim who is young and has a beard and is slightly involved in politics is a national security threat," he says.

"I was a regular student who was researching a phenomenon we encounter in today's society."

amirrortotheenemy - June 16, 2008 09:52 PM (GMT)
copied from Indymedia

Hicham Yezza released after 31 days in detention

Free Hich | 16.06.2008 17:21 | Migration | Repression | Terror War | Nottinghamshire

Following the cancellation order on his deportation, and after being detained for over 30 days, Hicham Yezza has been released on bail after the Home Office refused to grant him temporary release.

user posted image

Hicham, a prominent political journal editor, writer and University member was arrested under anti-terror legislation for the possession of 'radical material' on May 14th. The document in question is widely used for research purposes and was downloaded from an official US government website. At the time of the arrest the document was being used as material for a PhD proposal (supervised by staff in the Department of Politics and International Relations) of a student friend who was also arrested.

In the wake of the arrest the Home Office attempted to deport Hicham: a move that elicited widespread condemnation. Alan Simpson MP said: "The basis of that removal is to try to justify the abuse of power under the Terrorism Act" (see website for text of speech). The deportation order was cancelled in the midst of protests and a concerted campaign for Hicham’s release, but he remained in detention for weeks in various immigration removal centres. The Home Office attempted to justify Hicham’s continued detention by claiming he had an 'absence of close ties' to the UK. This was despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including hundreds of character references from friends and university colleagues, testifying to his excellent character and exceptional contributing to British society over the last 13 years.

Hicham's arrest highlights the routine and inappropriate use of the terror laws in Britain. Despite the fact that the ‘radical material’ was immediately confirmed as research material by academic supervisors, both Hicham and Riswaan Sabir were held for 6 days. This is a pre-charge detention period that would be illegal in most EU countries.

This development comes in the wake of recent national debate surrounding the extension to 42 days pre-charge detention and at a time when the US Supreme Court reaffirms the writ of habeas corpus in relation terror suspects held in Guantanamo. Yet the UK Government continues to undermine this cornerstone of liberty and accelerates the erosion of fundamental civil liberties.

When asked for comment on his release, Hicham said: "Being detained for the past 31 days has been the most harrowing experience of my life. The support my campaign has received from thousands of friends and supporters - including MPs academics, artists and concerned citizens in Nottingham and beyond - has been nothing short of inspirational and has sustained me through this difficult time. I have spent almost half my life in Nottingham and throughout that time have done my utmost to be a productive and positive member of the student and local communities. I look forward to continuing my fight for justice and I hope sense will prevail."

Campaign coordinator Musab Younis expressed his delight, commenting: "The incredible success of the campaign is testament to Hicham’s deep roots in the community and unique contribution as a well-known activist, academic, writer, and artist. The campaign will press ahead in its aim to secure Hicham's right to stay in the UK. We confidently expect a swift and positive resolution to this case, in line with the values of justice and free speech that we expect our country to uphold."

"We are delighted that Hicham Yezza has been granted immigration bail and has been released," said David Smith, immigration specialist with Midlands law firm Cartwright King and who is representing Mr Yezza. "The judicial review will now continue and we hope that the case will proceed in an orderly fashion to its proper conclusion."


Press conferences will be scheduled shortly: see website for updates.

Free Hich
- e-mail: staffandstudents (at)
- Homepage:


Bridget - August 18, 2008 10:14 PM (GMT)
Britain's terror laws have left me and my family shattered
I am innocent yet was detained without charge in solitary confinement for days on end. It was a devastating experience

user posted image
          o Hicham Yezza
          o The Guardian,
          o Monday August 18 2008

The UN's committee on human rights has just published a report criticising Britain's anti-terror laws and the resulting curbs on civil liberties. For many commentators the issues raised are mostly a matter of academic abstractions and speculative meanderings. For me, it is anything but. These laws have destroyed my life.

On May 14 I was arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act - on suspicion of the "instigation, preparation and commission of acts of terrorism": an absurdly nebulous formulation that told me nothing about the sin I had apparently committed. Once in custody, almost 48 hours passed before it was confirmed that the entire operation (involving dozens of officers, police cars, vans, and scientific support agents) was triggered by the presence on my University of Nottingham office computer of an equally absurd document called the "al-Qaida Training Manual", a declassified open-source document that I had never read and had completely forgotten about since it had been sent to me months before.

Rizwaan Sabir, a politics student friend of mine (who was also arrested), had downloaded the file from the US justice department website while conducting research on terrorism for his upcoming PhD. An extended version of the same document (which figures on the politics department's official reading list) was also available on Amazon. I edit a political magazine; Rizwaan regularly sent me copies of research materials he was using, and this document was one.

Within hours of my incarceration I had lost track of time. I often awoke thinking I had been asleep for days only to discover it wasn't midnight yet. My confidence in the competence (and motives) of the police ebbed away. I found myself shifting my energies from remaining cheerful to remaining sane. In the early hours, I was often startled by the metallic toilet seat, crouched in the corner like some sinister beast.

For days on end, I drew cartoons and wrote diary entries in the margins of Mills and Boon novellas. I spent hours reciting things to myself: names of Saul Bellow characters, physics Nobel prize winners, John Coltrane albums, anything to keep the numbness away.

I'm constantly coming across efforts being made to give detention without charge the Walt Disney treatment: the crushing weight of solitary confinement is painted as a non-issue; the soul-sapping nothingness of the claustrophobic, cold cell is portrayed as a mild inconvenience. Make no mistake: the feeling that one's fate is in the hands of the very people who are apparently trying to convict you is, without doubt, one of the most devastating horrors a human being can ever be subjected to. It is (to misquote Carl von Clausewitz) the continuation of torture by other means.

"Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear," goes the tautological reasoning of the paranoia merchants calling for harsher, ever more draconian "security" measures - as we saw throughout the 42-days debate. They should read Kafka: nothing is more terrifying than being arrested for something you know you haven't done. Indeed, it is the innocent who suffers the most because it is the innocent who is tormented the most. The guilty calculates, triangulates, anticipates. The innocent doesn't know where to start. The answers and the questions are absolute, unbreachable, towering conundrums.

I underwent 20 hours of vigorous interrogation while entire days were being completely wasted by the police micro-examining every detail of my life: my political activism, my writings, my work in theatre and dance, my love life, my photography, my cartooning, my magazine subscriptions, my bus tickets.

Aspects of my life that would have been seen as commendable in others were suddenly viewed as suspect in my case for no apparent reason other than my religious and ethnic background. I was guilty of being that strangest of creatures: a Muslim who reads; who studied engineering yet writes about Bob Dylan; was a vocal opponent of the Iraq war yet owns all of Christopher Hitchens' writings; admires Terry Eagleton yet defends Martin Amis; interviews Kazuo Ishiguro, listens to Leonard Cohen, goes to Radiohead concerts, all of which became the subject of rather bizarre questioning.

This is not all: outside, lives are shattered, jobs are lost, marriages are destroyed, minds are damaged, friends and families are traumatised - often irrevocably so. My parents, whom I wasn't allowed to call, could barely get any sleep throughout the ordeal. Many of my Muslim university friends were, and still are, worried about being targeted themselves. For most of my loved ones, despite my innocence, nothing will ever be the same again. I'm now jobless, facing destitution and threatened with deportation from the country I've called home for nearly half my life.

Immense pressure is exerted on law enforcement agencies by their political mandarins to produce "results": pressure to produce a higher number of arrests but also the corollary, more dangerous, impulse to justify them at any cost. Naturally, through a perverted but pervasive circularity in the logic, lack of evidence becomes the very justification for requesting "more time". The government claims that checks and balances will ensure extensions to detention periods are based on verifiable and compelling arguments. I beg to differ: in my case, the judge was simply bullied by streams of technospeak until she had no option but to grant extra time.

Fighting terrorism is a serious matter and needs to be tackled in a serious way - not through empty gimmicks sustained by fear-mongering and alarmist rhetoric. The real danger is that we are witnessing a slide from the essential purity of habeas corpus into a Britain where the innocent are detained until proven guilty.

· Hicham Yezza, an activist and writer, was released without charge after six days in custody, immediately rearrested on immigration charges and issued with a removal order to Algeria, after which he was held for a further 27 days; he is still awaiting a conclusion to his deportation case

amirrortotheenemy - August 23, 2008 04:50 PM (GMT)
The University of Nottingham were hosts to a Civil Liberties Conference a month previous to Yezza's arrest.

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Details at link : Indymedia

Bridget - March 8, 2009 12:40 AM (GMT)
University worker Yezza jailed for nine months
Friday, March 06, 2009, 18:16

A UNIVERSITY of Nottingham administrator who falsely claimed he was allowed to be in Britain has been jailed for nine months.

Hicham Yezza was originally arrested under the Terrorism Act after he printed off a copy of an al Qaida manual for a friend. Both were later released without charge.

Yezza, 31, of Barker Gate, Nottingham, was then arrested again after police found his passport which he claimed had been stolen – and revealed he was an Algerian national.

Northampton Crown Court heard that Yezza had failed to get his documents stamped since 2003 and that his stay in the UK was illegal.

He claimed immigration officials extended his stay until December 2007.

Last month he was found guilty of securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means.

In mitigation, Caroline Bradley, said her client had demonstrated a certain amount of "stupidity" because it was likely he would have had his stay in the UK extended if he had applied to have his visa renewed in 2003.

She said: "He did not in any way try to hide his identity and, if he had done things properly, he would have been granted in all likelihood the right to stay in this country."

Sentencing him, Judge Charles Wide QC told him: "I find that your guilt in this case involved the deliberate, extended manipulation of the system for immigration control, which involved deliberate and serious deceit.

"The public is entitled to have confidence in the system of immigration control but it makes it much more difficult for truthful applicants if some applicants tell lies, as you did

A CiF article by Hicham in the Guardian:
Student apathy is good for business

Crackdowns on a resurgence in activism highlight universities' transformation into businesses selling employable students

user posted image        o Hicham Yezza
          o, Thursday 19 February 2009 19.30 GMT

Over the past four weeks, the UK student community has been witnessing an unprecedented political awakening not seen since the anti-apartheid protests of the 80s, and yet you would be forgiven for being completely oblivious to it. Coverage in the media has been sporadic and muted at best, mostly confined to a few orphan stories in local outlets and a couple of notices in the broadsheets.

Since mid-January, students in more than 20 universities across the UK have been taking part in a series of sit-ins or soft "occupations" of university spaces. These have for the most part consisted of dozens of students peacefully remaining in lecture theatres and using the act as a gesture of protest against what they perceived to be the shameful silence and collusion of many British universities in the horrific ongoing suffering in Gaza. The movement has even spread to US campuses.

Many issued lists of demands that included requests for educational equipment to be donated to Gazan schools as well as scholarships for Palestinian students. Crucially, no lectures were to be disrupted and indeed, when covering the Nottingham University protests for Ceasefire Magazine, most lecturers and students I spoke to were happy to continue studying in the occupied spaces.

For anyone interested in the health of our political system, these events are highly instructive. For a start, they would have been unthinkable a decade ago: everyone remembers the quasi-proverbial, and not wholly undeserved, reputation students have cultivated over the years for extreme political apathy. Indeed, the extent of the indifference to the political process among the youth was a source of national despair, wistfully and routinely bemoaned by politicians across the spectrum.

More importantly, these protests have also been very indicative of some larger truths: not only have they highlighted a rise in political awareness among a new generation raised in the shadow of the Iraq war debate, they have also exposed what has for long been a suspected but unspoken reality: rather than being the centres of learning, debate and intellectual engagement of yore, British universities are now little more than businesses purveying a product, employable students. The message is unambiguous: political engagement might be good for the mind but it is very, very bad for business.

The last four weeks have given us ample evidence to that effect. Take Nottingham University, where senior management responded to a peaceful sit-in by sending in private security agents to drag the students out of the building and into the snow (injuring some in the process according to media reports). To their credit, the students responded by launching a "books not bombs" campaign aimed at initiating a campus-wide debate about the university's links to the arms trade. Things were not much better at Sheffield Hallam where students had agreed to end their sit-in when threatened with police action but were suspended from their course anyway, a lesson to everyone else.

Thankfully, not everyone was this draconian: many of the universities, including King's College, Oxford University and the London School of Economics, engaged in reasonable dialogue and several sit-ins ended in amicable agreements (after negotiations) where some or all of the demands were satisfied: Edinburgh University granted scholarships for Palestinian students. Glasgow University offered to send equipment to Gazan educational institutions. Unfortunately, these have been the exception rather than the rule.

How is it that a peaceful movement (both in its aims and actions) that has received support from members of both houses of parliament – not to mention a long list of academics, politicians and public figures (including Tony Benn, Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu and MPs such as Alan Simpson) has come to be seen as such a grave threat to the public image of a university? Since when has a group of peaceful protesters organising lectures, film screenings, open discussions and live acoustic gigs been deemed worthy of heavy-handed tactics and deployment of considerable university security resources and police time?

The answer is rather simple. Many universities have now grown to see their task as that of churning out generic, malleable clones for the consumption of ever more regimental recruiters. Students now spend their university years being bombarded with instructions on how to turn themselves into perfect job interview candidates. Countless career tutorials, taster sessions, seminars, workshops and presentations drum into students the notion that any semblance of political consciousness will damage employability – and that employability is everything. What is being lost on many is that such a shift is draining this young generation of bright, capable graduates of their essential critical instincts. The unquestioning deference to authority and the blind adherence to the party line are now seen not as impediments, but as the pre-requisites for anyone serious about getting a job with a top recruiter.

Let us be clear: this is obviously not about the political merits of the protests per se. The problem is not that university managers disagree with their students' demands (which they are perfectly entitled to do), but that they view the very act of students engaging with the wider reality of their world as a subversive phenomenon to be nipped in the bud before it infects the rest of the student population. In an attempt to discredit the protests, some university authorities simply resorted to calling them "disruptive" despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. This PR-obsessed mindset now prevalent amongst university managers perceives any discussion of controversial topics to be a nuisance they can ill afford and an unacceptable threat to the image of Stepford-like stability, homogeneity and conformity that is at the very heart of their international recruitment efforts.

We can dismiss these sit-ins as simple-minded tantrums by soixante-huitards manqués all we like but, ultimately, if British universities are serious about remaining a competitive presence in the international market of ideas, whether in the natural or social sciences, it is essential the ongoing rot is brought to a halt as a matter of urgency. It is simply not enough to pay lip service to an esoteric, non-existent "right to protest". Students must be encouraged, not quelled and intimidated, in their efforts to engage with the complex realities of the world.

Sure, some of the demands might be unrealistic and arguably naive in their assumptions, but that is beside the point: whether they're right or wrong in their political positions, students need to be heard and respected, not patronised and infantilised for their dissent.

Mark Gobell - January 27, 2010 12:56 AM (GMT)

Mark Gobell - May 10, 2011 06:17 PM (GMT)
Row after university suspends lecturer who criticised way student was treated

Rod Thornton accused Nottingham University of trying to discredit student, who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual

    Jeevan Vasagar, education editor, Wednesday 4 May 2011 19.09 BST

A university has been plunged into a row over academic freedom after suspending a lecturer who criticised its treatment of a student who researched al-Qaida.

Rod Thornton, an expert in counter-insurgency at Nottingham University, was suspended on Wednesday after he accused the university of passing "erroneous evidence" to police and attempting to discredit a student who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual from a US government website.

A member of staff at the university also lobbied successfully for Thornton's article to be taken down from an academic website, arguing that it contained defamatory allegations.

The masters student, Rizwaan Sabir, was arrested and detained for six days for downloading the al-Qaida material.

A university administrator was also arrested after Sabir asked him to print the document because the student could not afford the printing fees. Both were later released without charge.

In the paper, Thornton wrote: "Untruth piled on untruth until a point was reached where the Home Office itself farcically came to advertise the case as 'a major Islamist plot' ... Many lessons can be learned from what happened at the University of Nottingham.

"This incident is an indication of the way in which, in the United Kingdom of today, young Muslim men can become so easily tarred with the brush of being 'terrorists'."

Thornton's article was prepared for the British International Studies Association (Bisa), which promotes the study of international relations and held its annual conference in Manchester last week.

A leaked email exchange shows that one of Thornton's fellow academics at Nottingham claimed the paper made "clearly defamatory" allegations against individuals.

In an email to colleagues, Professor Theo Farrell, Bisa's vice-chair, writes that the request gets the organisation into the "difficult territory" of ensuring academic freedoms while protecting itself from being sued for libel.

Thornton, a former soldier, told the Guardian he had received a letter from the vice-chancellor telling him he had been suspended because of a "breakdown in working relationships with your colleagues caused by your recent article".

He said: "I'm just saddened by it. I'm criticising my own university but there's a bigger issue in terms of the university's treatment of Rizwaan Sabir. They failed miserably in their duty of care to him."

Sabir, now a PhD student at Strathclyde University, said: "A public inquiry is needed more than ever before into the university's actions."

Referring to the arrests in May 2008, Thornton wrote in his paper that both Sabir and the administrator, Hicham Yezza, were "completely innocent" of any link to terrorism.

"They were simply caught up in an extraordinary set of circumstances that might be described as laughable if the consequences had not been quite so severe.

"And, at the heart of their tribulations, there does seem to be something really rather dark; something I would never have believed existed in a modern British university and indeed, within modern British society."

Thornton writes that the al-Qaida manual which led to the arrests is now stocked in the university's library.

He says the university's administration notified police but had never given any indication they had carried out "even the simplest of internet checks or ... [sought] either advice or guidance from elsewhere".

A university spokesman said Thornton's article was "highly defamatory" of a number of his colleagues.

"The university rejects utterly the baseless accusations he makes about members of staff. We understand that Bisa has decided to remove the article from its website.

"Academic freedom is a cornerstone of this university and is guaranteed in employment terms under the university's statutes.

"That freedom is the freedom to question, to criticise, to put forward unpopular ideas and views – it is not the freedom to defame your co-workers and attempt to destroy their reputations as honest, fair and reasonable individuals.

"It is important to remember that the original incident, almost three years ago, was triggered by the discovery of an al-Qaida training manual on the computer of an individual who was neither an academic member of staff, nor a student, and in a school where one would not expect to find such material being used for research purposes.

"The university became concerned and decided, after a risk assessment, that those concerns should be conveyed to the police as the appropriate body to investigate."

Rod Thornton's paper:


Radicalisation at universities or radicalisation by universities?:

How a student‟s use of a library book became a “major Islamist plot”


School of Politics and International Relations,
University of Nottingham.


Call to reinstate terror academic

    The Guardian, Tuesday 10 May 2011

We write as academics deeply concerned by the suspension of Dr Rod Thornton, a lecturer in counter-terrorism in the school of politics and international relations at the University of Nottingham (Report, 4 May). We understand that Dr Thornton's suspension is the result of a whistle-blowing investigative research paper that was presented at the annual British International Studies Association conference and subsequently published on its website. In his research, Dr Thornton carefully details what appear to be examples of serious misconduct from senior university management over the arrest of two university members (The "Nottingham Two") under the Terrorism Act 2000 in May 2008.

The two men were never charged with a terrorism-related offence, and their arrests were perceived as being indicative of a growing tide of Islamophobia. Dr Thornton's research paper provides apparent confirmation, notably through internal communications obtained via the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts, that university management and senior academics colluded to paint the two men in a negative light despite no evidence of wrongdoing. The claims he makes are very serious and should be subjected to a full and proper inquiry: they cannot be ignored.

We call for the immediate reinstatement of Dr Rod Thornton and call on the University of Nottingham to openly and thoroughly examine the claims made in his research. We also request that an independent inquiry be conducted into the university's actions on this matter.

Prof Noam Chomsky MIT

Prof Paul Gilroy LSE

Dr Karma Nabulsi Oxford

Prof Charles Tripp SOAS

Prof Neera Chandhoke University of Delhi

Prof Michael Burawoy University of California, Berkeley

Prof Patrick Bond University of KwaZulu-Natal

Prof David McNally York University (Toronto)

Prof Bill Bowring University of Essex

Prof John Harriss Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Prof Neil Smith City University, New York

Dr Norman Finkelstein

Prof Joyce Canaan Birmingham City University

Prof Richard Keeble University of Lincoln

Prof Scott Lucas University of Birmingham

Prof David Miller University of Strathclyde

Prof Ian Parker Manchester Metropolitan University

Prof Scott Poynting Manchester Metropolitan University

Prof Lucy Suchman University of Lancaster

Dr Bernard Sufrin Oxford (Worcester College)

Dr Laleh Khalili SOAS

Dr Rahul Rao SOAS

Dr Tufyal Choudhury University of Durham

Dr Polly Pallister-Wilkins SOAS

Dr Mark Laffey SOAS

Dr Corinna Mullin SOAS

Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam SOAS

Dr Kate Tunstall Oxford (Worcester College)

Dr Alf Nilsen University of Bergen

Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh Oxford (Balliol College)

Dr Eddie Yuen San Francisco Art Institute

Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed University of Sussex

Dr Tim Jacoby University of Manchester

Dr Laurence Cox National University of Ireland

Dr Jairus Banaji SOAS

Dr Ole Johnny Olsen University of Bergen

Dr Bhabani Sshankar Nayak Glasgow Caledonian University

Dr Rupert Read University of East Anglia

Dr Subir Sinha SOAS

Dr Neil Davidson University of Strathclyde

Dr Arun Kundnani London Metropolitan University

Dr Rashmi Varma University of Warwick

Dr Michael Edwards UCL

Dr Timothy Jones University of Glamorgan

Dr Jessie Blackbourn University of Salford

Dr Steve Hurst Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Steve Hewitt University of Birmingham

Dr Nisha Kapoor Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Jodie Chapell University of Lancaster

Dr Jack Nye Open University

Dr James Brown University of Cambridge

Dr Nicola Pratt University of Warwick

Dr Carlos Frade University of Salford

Dr Sherifa D Zuhur Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College

Dr Alex Dennis University of Salford

Dr William Dinan University of Strathclyde

Dr Piers Robinson University of Manchester

Dr Peter Bratsis University of Salford

Dr Helen Dexter University of Manchester

Dr Peter Waterman International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague

Dr Aggie Hirst Liverpool Hope University

Dr Max Farrar Leeds Metropolitan University 

Dr Elena Vezzadini École des hautes études en Sciences Sociales

Dr Giselle Vincett University of Edinburgh

Dr Betty Hagglund University of Birmingham

Dr Gary Fooks University of Bath

Dr Mahmood Delkhasteh

Bridget - May 12, 2011 12:13 AM (GMT)
Rod Thornton's suspension is a serious attack on academic freedom

Thornton's paper on Nottingham University's actions during my wrongful arrest over terrorism has led to him becoming the victim

          o Hicham Yezza
          o, Wednesday 11 May 2011 18.30 BST
Two weeks ago, Dr Rod Thornton, a respected lecturer and counter-terrorism expert at the University of Nottingham, published a "whistle-blowing" paper, running at 112 meticulously detailed and footnoted pages. The document makes serious allegations about the conduct of senior university managers in the lead-up and aftermath of the arrests three years ago, under the Terrorism Act, of two university members: Rizwaan Sabir and myself. As I read Thornton's paper, my curiosity soon turned to astonishment and, page after incriminating page, to fury.

For those unfamiliar with the case, a brief summary: on the morning of 14 May, 2008, I hurried to my office at the university, where I was a member of staff, having been informed it was full of security officers. To my surprise, far from being the victim of a break-in, I turned out to be the suspect: a terrorism suspect no less. I was immediately handcuffed, bundled into a police car and taken away.

Two days earlier, a colleague of mine was using the computer in my office when they noticed three documents: two academic papers on radical Islam, as well as a publicly available booklet, downloaded from the US justice department website, and obtainable from the university library, entitled the al-Qaida training manual. They reported this to senior managers, who called the police.

These documents had been sent to me by Sabir, an MA politics student at the university. I had been, since 2003, the editor of Ceasefire, a political and cultural magazine. Sabir, who was also arrested, had asked me to advise him on his research and routinely sent me copies of articles and books he was using. I quickly explained this misunderstanding to the counter-terrorism agents interviewing me, confident we would be freed within minutes. Instead, the police continued digging. On the seventh day we were eventually released, without charge. However, I was immediately rearrested for immigration issues that had "emerged", and was informed that I was to be deported on the next available flight to Algeria.

Outraged, a campaign of support erupted in Nottingham and beyond, leading to my hurried "whisking away" being cancelled. A legal fight subsequently ensued over the next two years, culminating in a victory over the Home Office that confirmed my right to live and work in this country.

Drawing on hundreds of pages of official evidence, including internal correspondence, Thornton's paper sheds dramatic new light on to what had happened. More specifically, Thornton alleges that senior management, in calling the police without seeking appropriate expertise, had ignored not only government guidelines, but also their own.

Worse, his paper suggests that, instead of coming to our assistance, senior management engaged in a sustained, systemic campaign of disinformation, innuendo and spin targeting myself, Sabir and others. The university has since released a statement in which it "rejects utterly", what it deems to be "baseless accusations he [Thornton] makes about members of staff". It says the report was "highly defamatory" of of a number of Thornton's colleagues.

If confirmed, Thornton's revelations about my alma mater are particularly hurtful. As an undergraduate and PhD student, I had spent the best part of 10 years serving the university, including as a member of its senate and student union executive. I was a key point of contact between management and Muslim students on campus. For a decade, university prospectuses carried a profile of me, quoting my description of the institution as "excellent".

And yet, once arrested, I became a non-entity whose connection with and contribution to the university were either downplayed or denied. Sabir did not fare much better: upon returning to his course, he says he was subjected to repeated attempts to prevent him from getting on to the PhD programme, causing him enormous distress and leading him, within weeks, to leave for Strathclyde University, where he is now a doctoral researcher.

Amazingly, instead of engaging with Thornton's findings, the university has now suspended him. The British International Studies Association, which had published the paper, has also removed his paper from its website acting, it stated, "on legal advice".

Thornton's suspension is a serious attack on academic freedom. The university claims in its statement that "academic freedom is a cornerstone of this university and is guaranteed in employment terms under the university's statutes". But it is precisely critical voices such as his that must be encouraged if freedom of expression is to mean more than facile sloganeering. The suspension appears even more senseless considering that Thornton says that he had spent the past three years exhausting all avenues to have these grievances addressed internally, only to be ignored and dismissed by management.

This is not about irrelevant campus squabbling, but about the irrevocable damage done to the lives of two innocent Muslim men, and the silencing of an academic who dared to speak up in their defence. This is about protecting the reputation for religious and ethnic tolerance of an institution that belongs to all of us, and whose senior management, as Thornton's paper convincingly argues, has a case to answer.

If we are serious about fighting extremism on campus and beyond, the fight starts here. This is not a side battle but the very core of the fight. I therefore add my voice to that of Noam Chomsky and others, who called here for Thornton's immediate reinstatement, and for an independent public inquiry to be conducted into the very serious allegations raised in his paper. Indeed, if, as the university seems to be claiming, Thornton "defame[s] [his] co-workers and attempt[s] to destroy their reputations as honest, fair and reasonable individuals", then it should be the first to welcome such an inquiry.

Nottingham students are protesting on Thursday against the suspension; I hope senior management will take note. There is no shame in them admitting error, but they must understand that any efforts to protect a few red faces at the top, at the expense of Nottingham University's good name, would be irresponsible and, ultimately, bound to fail.

Bridget - June 11, 2011 10:38 PM (GMT)
Nottingham University secretly films students suspected of extremism

Critics say that link to government's counter-terrorism strategy targeting radicalisation 'could fuel Islamophobia'

    Mark Townsend, Saturday 11 June 2011 22.19 BST

user posted image
Hicham Yezza, the University of Norttingham administrator who was arrested for possessing terrorism-related material in 2008 and released without charge after six days.

Confidential documents relating to a suspected Islamic bomb plot have revealed that security staff from a leading university have been secretly filming students on campus as a method of monitoring potential extremists.

More than 200 university documents – along with material from the Met's counter-terrorism command, Special Branch and the Crown Prosecution Service – detail the controversial techniques being deployed to monitor students.

The documents, published today on the website Unileaks, follows the government's publication of its Prevent -terrorism strategy, which is aimed at targeting radicalisation in universities but has sparked concerns that it could fuel Islamophobia.

The material charts the consequences of the May 2008 arrest by counter-terrorism officers of Nottingham student Rizwaan Sabir and of Hicham Yezza, who worked as an administrator at the university's school of modern languages.

Sabir had downloaded an al-Qaida training manual as part of research for a dissertation, and had sought Yezza's help in drafting a PhD proposal because of his position as editor of a political magazine. Although campaigners say the manual was available in the university's own library and that versions are available from retailers Blackwell's, Waterstone's and Amazon, university officials alerted the police. Both men were released without charge six days later.

Even so, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the arrests were mentioned in a report, cited by the Home Office, called Islamist Terrorist Plots in Great Britain: Uncovering the Global Network.

They also reveal how university security staff kept a log of Middle East-related activities on campus, including details of talks and seminars revolving around Palestine and other issues. Nottingham University admitted that it "routinely" filmed students who protest on campus, and recorded a demonstration last month in connection with the arrests.

Staff and students who spoke out in support of Yezza and Sabir were logged by a Whitehall counter-terrorism unit called the Research, Information and Communications Unit, which is embedded in the government's Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said: "Is it right that universities are taking on policing duties?"

Last month, Nottingham University lecturer Dr Rod Thornton was suspended for writing an article criticising the university's treatment of Sabir. In a paper prepared for the British International Studies Association, he alleged the university "refused to apologise to the men" and attempted to smear them. He wrote: "Untruth piled on untruth until a point was reached where the Home Office itself farcically came to advertise the case as a 'major Islamist plot'."

The university responded by suspending Thornton, who lectures on security issues and is a former infantryman who served in Northern Ireland. That prompted an international outcry in which 67 academics, including the renowned US scholar Noam Chomsky, demanded his "immediate reinstatement". The group described the original arrests as "indicative of a growing tide of Islamophobia".

Thornton, speaking after his ninth disciplinary hearing on Thursday, said: "It's about academic freedom, but also the wider issue of the way Muslim students are treated. Suspicions are being raised when they should not be."

Pressure group Support the Whistleblower at Nottingham (Swan) said today's release of documents supports Thornton's article, which was entitled "How a student's use of a library book became a 'major Islamist plot'."

The material reveals that the university officials who contacted the police never actually read the manual, even though they declared it "illegal", and on one occasion "toxic waste". After his release, Sabir, rather than being looked after by the university, was told by officials that he could have been fined or suspended for misusing the computer facilities.

"These leaks show how everything can, and does, go wrong when a brand-conscious university is left to deal with security issues such as terrorism," said a Swan spokesman. "What's more, this case highlights how a leading British university can act with impunity on such a sensitive issue."

Cathy James, chief executive of the pro-whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, said: "It's really important that whistleblowers are supported." Thornton's supporters say the evidence underlines the need for an independent public inquiry.

Although the university's security officials initially said that the CPS had "reluctantly accepted" a decision not to charge Sabir as a terrorist, a letter from the CPS actually shows they believed there was "insufficient evidence" to pursue the case. And although the university says it has acted in an "ethical, transparent and fair manner", a number of the documents are almost completely redacted or have not been released.

A Nottingham University spokesman said no footage of protests was retained or passed to other authorities, including the police or government. He said that security staff kept lists of protests in case extra security was required "because of their subject matter". He added that the al-Qaida manual was found on the computer of "an administrative member of staff with no academic reason to possess such a document".

The spokesman said: "Senior staff evaluated the information that was available and made the correct decision – to pass those concerns to the police as the appropriate body to investigate in the interests of public safety. This was a very difficult situation that was handled appropriately and properly. The university acted in good faith." He would not comment on Thornton.

Sinclair - June 14, 2011 09:12 AM (GMT)

Embedded Links at the original article:

Nottingham University - The Case of the terror plot that wasn't - Rod Thornton and the Nottingham 2 

Dear Unileakers, Today we publish a series of files with the aid of contributors. These files, as the mini-digest explains, relate to Nottingham University and the actions of its senior administrators.We release all material completely unaltered.

Links to Supporting groups and media:

Support the Whistleblower At Nottingham:

The Guardian News Paper:

Author: Mark Townsend

Nottingham University secretly films students suspected of extremism: Critics say that link to government's counter-terrorism strategy targeting radicalisation 'could fuel Islamophobia'


Full Archived Downloadable copies of the files can be found below:   
Rod Thornton's paper(Click Here) Vice-Chancellor - Greenway's exchange with Rod Thornton (Click Here) PDF copies of all cited material from Dr Thornton's paper (Click Here) 

Accountability and the Prevent strategy & Dr. Thornton the Whistleblower

As Universities are brought further in to the fold of counter terrorism under the revised Prevent strategy, what hurdles might be in store? The case of the suspension of Dr. Thornton and the ‘Nottingham Two’ provides one glaring example – a complete lack of oversight and accountability. Here are all the persons and Government bodies that Dr. Thornton attempted to disclose his findings to before going public:

Internal complaints mechanism– conducted by the Chief Financial Officer [here]

Directly to the Vice Chancellor [here]

English universities funding body, HEFCE [here]

Parliamentary Ombudsman [here]

Department for Business Innovation and Skills [here]

Police, Human Rights Commission, Independent Police Complaints Commission: [here]

One email that Dr. Thornton had sent to Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police was released [here] as part of a Freedom of Information request that he made to the University. In other words, either it was sent to the university by Special Branch OR Dr. Thornton’s email communications were being intercepted and monitored by the university.

Nowhere were his complaints taken seriously. Prevent is sowing the seeds of disaster if it continues to empower the unaccountable black box that is the modern British University. As was seen in the Nottingham case, the University’s image and interests were put ahead of the liberty and well-being of its staff and students. What this information also highlights is Dr. Thornton’s status as a legal protected whistleblower was neglected. He formally complained to almost everybody/person proscribed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the university’s own whistle-blowing code [here]. Dr Thornton should have therefore been protected from acts of victimisation such as suspension and disciplinary hearings which are still ongoing (9 thus far!).

A Lack of Accountability

The University told Newsnight on Monday (06.06.11) that they behaved “ethically, fairly and with transparency” [here]. This is not what the documents show. Take for instance the internal investigation by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) into the handling of the arrests [here] triggered by a complaint from Dr. Thornton. The Registrar is interviewed and asked about his role in calling the police – almost all of the entire interview is redacted [here]. Incidentally the CFO also sits on the Board of Management with the Registrar. The University is currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office for alleged failures to disclose information and unwarranted redactions. The gaps in Freedom of Information releases are glaring. The Vice Chancellor’s letters to the Home Office are nowhere to be found. Emails to and from the Professor who declared the library materials illegal were never disclosed [see p.45 of Dr. Thornton’s paper]. Legal advice obtained by the University with regards to the arrests is also being withheld [here]. When Sabir attempted to follow up on such information gaps he was labelled 'obsessive' by the University Governance Team; they declared that these were “matters that the University considers closed” [here]. Three years after the arrests, Sabir is still being stopped by the police using anti-terror powers under the anti-terror legislation [3 examples here] and there has been no independent investigation into the affair.  More worrying is how Dr. Thornton obtained his own private email messages under the Freedom of Information Act. In one example, Dr. Thornton sent an email to Special Branch in London, but this email was later released to him when he made an FoI request [here]; it was held in the Registrar’s Office. Either it was sent to the university by Special Branch OR Dr. Thornton’s email communications were being intercepted and monitored by the university. The University say they behaved “ethically, fairly and with transparency”. We at S.W.A.N. beg to differ.

Defamation vs. Academic Freedom: University members threaten academic body with litigation to silence Dr. Thornton

The University of Nottingham wrote to the British International Sociological Association (BISA) and threatened to take legal action against them [here] if they did not take down Dr. Thornton’s article. Like other participants, Dr. Thornton was presenting his work at their annual conference in Manchester. BISA, under threat from those named in the report, removed the article. If those that are named in Thornton’s research are offended, they are entitled to compile their own research paper and argue their points, but, the university does not have the right to suspend him. Such actions may be illegal under not only whistleblowing laws but also human rights laws protecting freedom of expression. For example, see the key case in this regard: Sorguc v. Turkey, European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) (Application no. 17089/03) 23 June 2009

‘Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism’ (OSCT) & RICU (‘Strategic Communications’ Unit) was monitoring dissenters & critical voices, including journalists:

Interestingly, staff and students who spoke out in support of Yezza and Sabir came to have their media quotations logged by the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU). RICU is a strategic communications unit located within the ‘Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism’ (OSCT), itself an off-shoot of the Home Office. [see here – Annex B, pp. 8-13]. Why were RICU only making a record of the critical voices of the university and the police? See especially p. 13 of this documentwhere a ‘list’ was made of the critical ‘commentators’ & journalists. Apart from the mention of the Uni. of Nottingham Press Spokesperson (name not given but was Mr Jonathan Ray), why has a list of all critical voices been logged by RICU/OSCT/Home Office?

Untruths of Home Office came straight from senior management.

A few untruths and inconsistencies generated within senior circles of Nottingham circulated and eventually were passed on, faithfully, to the Home Office. Take for example the Universities public claim that Sabir was arrested for interfering with police investigation [here and here]. The university claims that “it was the police’s views” that Sabir was impeding which is why he was arrested. This is just not true. The police never said this to Sabir.

Internal emails also reveal how senior management talked of “the steps the student [Sabir] took to impede the investigation”. This came to be presented to the Home Office and the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation [here] where it was asserted that Sabir attempted to "interfere with the process of the police removing the computer” [here].What is clear is that this claim did not originate with the police. Sabir was actually arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for the ‘commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism’ after he was escorted to a nearby car park [here – page 3]. He fully cooperated with the police at all times.

The fabrication can be traced to an internal security report written by the head of Security, Gary Steven’s [here]. He later admits, in the presence of the Registrar, that the defamatory assertion was based on his own ‘impression’ [here – page 3]. No attempt has ever been made to rectify these statements.

Another incorrect public statement made by the University related to the al-Qaeda training manual found on Yezza’s computer. It was stated that the ‘more dangerous’ version of the manual was found on campus when compared to those found on Amazon. Again the Home Office was told an incredibly similar story: “it is important to note that the Training Manual found WAS NOT [sic] the version you can purchase on Amazon' (original emphasis) [here]. BUT, the manual 'found' on Yezza’s computer [here] that Sabir sent was ‘exactly’ the same as the Amazon version [here]. In fact the complete, more detailed, ‘more dangerous’ version of the manual was available through the library [here fn 18]. Internal emails show how members of the Management Board were eager to break the ‘Amazon defense’ by publishing “specific information about the existence of different [al-Qaeda training] manuals”[here].What should we take from all this information?

The Vice Chancellor wrote in his Times Higher article that the university simply called the police after a ‘risk assessment’ [here] and claimed that ‘no judgment was made by us’ [here]. However, both Sabir and Yezza appeared to have been pre-judged, indeed, defamed.In an email sent from Professor Diane Birch, the only ‘law professor’ on the entire Management Board, to the Management Board referred to Sabir and Yezza as “the suspects”, even though they had been totally cleared from terrorism allegations [here].Prof. Birch also stated that Sabir’s sending of three academic documents to Yezza was “not at all covert, dishonest or likely to provoke suspicion. Disgraceful” [here]. All of these University distortions seeped into central government departments, helping to cement what Dr. Thornton calls an Orwellian lie (p.94): "And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. George Orwell"

One Standard for the Arrested Student Another for Everyone Else

Publicly the anti-terror arrests may have seemed reasonable to those listening to the Vice Chancellor talking about ‘terrorist material’ for which others had been prosecuted for [here]. The Registrar also stated these documents had ‘no valid reason whatsoever to exist’ [here]. Likewise the Registrar met with Rizwaan Sabir privately and stated he was “informed by the Police that it was illegal for you [Sabir] to possess this type of material” [here]. However, the police said it was ‘the University authorities’ who ‘made clear’ that Sabir should not have the document [see here] and according to a police document [here] that decision was made by a Professor of Romance languages - a non-expert. Better still, ALL of the so-called ‘terrorist material’ were freely available to anyone with a library card [here] or access to high street bookshops such as Blackwells, Waterstone’s or Amazon. Despite this the University drafted a letter (within 24 hours of Sabir’s arrest) to suspend him as a student and exclude him from campus [here].

Lying to the Public

Following the arrests, the Vice Chancellor publicly stated in a Times Higher article that ‘we’ made a ‘risk assessment’ before calling in the police after finding the documents [here]. This would have been in accordance with government guidelines [here]. On the University website he even wrote of the ‘collective’ decision to call the police in [here]. However, in internal communications, the Registrar says it was he alone who made the decision to call the police [here - page 4]. What’s more, the Registrar admits that he never read the documents in question [here - page 2]. The University does not have evidence to suggest that a risk assessment was conducted [here - see point a]. Someone is telling lies! Privately the VC also communicated to the Dept. for Universities that there was no ‘collective’ decision to call the police [here - page 2, 3rd bullet point].

Blaming the Student for Everything

A meeting between Sabir, the Registrar and the Head of Security was called to reportedly check on his welfare post-release [here]. However in the meeting Sabir was brow-beaten and blamed for causing this incident. Sabir’s use of ‘academic’ material for his research was also compared to ‘the use of child pornography’ by the Registrar. He was told he could have been fined or suspended for misusing the computer facilities, but the university would let him off this time. See the meeting transcript (19 pages!) [here] and the Registrar’s letter to Sabir summarising the meeting [here].

Smearing the Students Name

The Head of Security reported to University Management that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had “reluctantly accepted” not to charge Sabir as a terrorist [here]. When Dr. Thornton approached the CPS about this claim, they stated that the CPS “do not “reluctantly accept” that people be charged or not charged” [here]. SWAN thinks this is starting to look like a smear campaign! Read on. The University announced to the public that Sabir was intially arrested for “interfering” with the police investigation. This claim was also erroneously repeated by the Home Office [here]. The police, however, never stated that Sabir was arrested for “interfering”. When challenged, the Head of Security told Sabir: “I’m not sure [why you were arrested] but that’s the impression we got” [here – page 3].

Student is forced out

Post-release senior management and the ‘Head of Security’ were kept informed of Sabir’s academic progress [here]. The Head of Security also, curiously, requested Sabir’s undergraduate results [here]. Why? When Sabir decided to abandon his PhD studies and leave due to untoward pressure, staff in the School of Politics sent celebratory emails and comments. For example, the University Exams Officer wrote: “Fingers crossed. Best thing for all concerned” [here]. The Head of the Politics Department wrote: ‘Nice to have some good news!’ [here] and declared that he was ‘both delighted and astonished!! What on earth are the ESRC [Sabir’s new PhD funders] thinking - but then who cares?!” [here].

Registrar misrepresents police, no action taken.

Dr Thornton asked the Chief Constable of Nottingham Constabulary to investigate the fact that the Registrar had written to Sabir to say that he had 'been informed by the police that it was illegal for you [ie, Sabir] to possess this type of material in the UK' [here]. The Registrar repeated this assertion no less than three times in the 15 July meeting he held with Sabir [here] and no less than three times in the letter to Sabir which summarised the meeting [here]. An internal University investigation, however, had found that the Registrar had NOT been told this by any police officer [here]. To Dr Thornton this was clearly a case of the Registrar 'misrepresenting the police'. However, he received a reply from the Force Solicitor of Nottinghamshire Constabulary stating that they saw no impropriety in the Registrar's actions [heresee: pp.10-11 of PDF]. It seems that the Registrar lied and misrepresented the words of the Police, but was never investigated.

Monitoring of ‘Arab/left’ ‘Events on Campus’

The university's security staff, for ‘at least’ 2008, kept a log of all activities on campus that had an Arab/Muslim 'flavour'. This was innocently entitled 'Events on Campus' [here]. The list included the likes of talks, seminars and stalls revolving around issues to do with Palestine, anti-terrorism and Middle Eastern arts & performance, AND, events organised by the ACADEMIC centre for Social and Global Justice. The Head of Security, Gary Stevens, was responsible for producing this report. If you look at the way he spells Rizwaan Sabir’s name in almost all of his communications - “RiSwaan Sabir” – suggests that he personally produced this ‘list’. For your information, Gary Steven’s was a former Police Officer - it is ‘rumoured’ - with Special Branch. When Rizwaan Sabir filed an FoI request to the UoN to get more details on this “events on campus”, the university accused him of being “vexatious” and claimed that his requests “demonstrate[d] an obsession with this topic [ie, of his arrest & surrounding issues]”[here]. The ‘Governance Manager’, Sam Kingston, who accused Sabir of being “vexatious” and “obsessed with this case” is ALSO the individual who told Dr Pauline  Eadie - accused by Rod Thornton of malpractice in regards to Sabir herself - that the filing of FoI and Data Protection Requests was “ridiculous” and “hope[d] there won’t be anymore” [here]. This is all whilst the university claimed to the press, including to Newsnight on Monday (06.06.11) that they behaved “ethically, fairly and with transparency” [here].

Senior Management passing confidential information for cover-up publication.

Dr Thornton had sent the Registrar an email to ensure the he understood the basic issues of the arrests to ensure he refrained from making erroneous public statements [here]. However, two “junior members”of staff - Drs Sean Matthew & Macdonald Daly - produced a booklet presenting a particularly rosy picture of the arrests titled Academic Freedom and the University of Nottingham. Uni-leaked documents reveal that the Registrar and university management (which includes the Press Spokesman, Jonathan Ray) had provided them with private correspondence of Dr. Thornton [here]. Drs Daly and Matthews openly admit that they had “been able to discuss the issues [surrounding the arrests] with university senior management since virtually day one [of the arrests], and had found them to be quite forthcoming with information, of which they had a good deal”[here – p.35]. They continue: “Whenever we asked senior management for information … we were never denied it”[here – p.36]. Dr. Thornton also details (p72) how management passed on private information about Hicham Yezza’s studies and employment records. Of course the university is a public institution, and like any public institution, it has a duty under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 to process and hold data lawfully – ie, to abide by rules of confidentially and privacy [here]. By admitting that the university shared personal communications with them, especially the email that Dr Thornton had sent to the Registrar in confidence, is evidence that the university management behaved unlawfully. (See p.66-75 for more info on the Mac & Matthews issue).

The Power of Unileaks

The publication of documents presents a barrier to those who try to muddy the waters. We give one such example from complaints that have been made against Dr. Thornton following the publication of his whistleblowing paper. This latest complaint by the Head of School of Politics and International Relations, Prof. Heywood, [here] asserts that the paper “contains many errors of fact and interpretation”. His begins his analysis with this segment of Dr. Thornton’s report (p4-5):

Thornton: “As I say, the concerns I have been raising within the university have led to disciplinary action against myself. … There were, though, some interesting new ones. I am now charged, for instance, with not providing correct copies of my course reading lists to my School’s Office Manager. These were “incorrect” in that on one occasion I did “not add [my] office hours to the front page”; I had also infringed School policy by having “more than 12 essays on the module guide”, and I was accused of not submitting my reading lists “on the correct template”. All of these disciplinary “charges” were, of course, acts of genuine oversight on my part.”

In his complaint, Prof. Heywood leads his diagnosis of inaccuracies with the following observation: “Not a single one of these comments [above] appears in any part of the letter of complaint I sent to the Registrar” [here]. If we look at the document Dr. Thornton refers to [here] we see why this was: the ‘comments’ were enclosed with the Professors letter to the Registrar, they were not written in the letter. This shows the helps show the strength of Dr. Thornton’s research – on the whole it stands up to scrutiny even from those implicated in it.

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