Saturday, March 07, 2009

Hicham Yezza sent down for nine months

I was sorry to hear yesterday that Hicham Yezza has been jailed for nine months. Hicham Yezza was arrested and held last May for a period of six days, alongside student Rizwaan Sabir. The incident provoking this farce was the appearance of an 'Al Qaeda' training manual downloaded from the US government's website on Hicham's computer. It was in fact material for Sabir's MA dissertation, and the only reason a fuss had been made was because some snitch, instead of asking Yezza about it, reported it to the university authorities who assumed the worst and called the cops. As neither the detention nor the raids on the pair's homes resulted in disclosures about terrorist plots, no charge could be made and the pair were released. But having made fools of themselves, the police were not prepared to let the matter lie. The next best step for them was to hold Yezza at Colnbrook detention centre. Police said that Yezza, as an Algerian national, had neglected to have his visa stamped since 2003, and he would have to be deported. Although Hicham was ready to fight the matter in court, the police and government sought to fast-track the deportation in this case. They failed, largely due to protests and legal challenge, and instead decided to charge him under the Immigration Act. The court found him guilty earlier this month of "securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means". In mitigation, his lawyer pointed out that he would undoubtedly have had his stay prolonged had he applied. The judge gave him nine months in jail anyway. The words 'stitch up' come to mind. It is hardly unlike the police to try and dig dirt on an innocent man whom they have unfairly harrassed (or shot to death). That is apparently the normal way they do business. So this looks like an attempt to compensate for a PR blunder by pillorying someone over what is, in fact, a pretty trivial offence.