Saturday, May 24, 2008
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
c) Apologises for the great distress caused to them, their families, and
d) Guarantees academic and political freedom on campus
e) Declares its commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of expression
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."