UK Liberty

freedom to read

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on June 2, 2008

I’ve been slow off the mark on this:

About two weeks ago (May 16), Nottingham University campus was agog as police arrived to interview former student Hicham Yezza. After some ten years’ study, first as undergraduate, then graduate, Hicham was a non-academic member of staff in one of the University departments.

His mistake was to agree to help Rizwaan Sabir, a friend in the Politics faculty, who needed a document downloaded from the web and printed off. This was all part of legitimate study: the document itself was on the Politics Faculty reading list. Unfortunately, the document in question also happened to be an al-Qaeda Training Manual.

Someone noticed. They informed their superiors, who in turn referred the matter on upward. Eventually, the issue reached the very top. The Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and senior management of the University decided it was beyond them. They owed a duty of care to all their students. The implications behind the download were too large. So they handed the matter over to the local Police.

Which is where we came in. Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza were arrested. Their homes were searched, laptops confiscated, friends interviewed. They were subjected to six days of questioning – and then released. Or at least, Sabir was released. Hicham’s story now takes a turn for the decidedly worse. He is – he was – in the process of applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The focus of the inquiry shifted to the possibility that he had been less than truthful in his application to stay.

So he was re-arrested under the Immigration Act and moved directly to a detention centre. From there, he is due to be deported back to Algeria this Sunday. …


The Home Office has cancelled removal directions to have Hicham Yezza deported on Sunday following an application in the High Court.

His solicitors will return to the High Court this afternoon to seek to have him released while his case is reconsidered.

David Smith, solicitor at Cartwright King, said: “We hope and trust that the Home Office will now release Mr Yezza and reconsider his case properly and in accordance with the law.”(The Register)

MP Alan Simpson:

He described the original arrest as a “dreadful cock-up”. The subsequent deportation was a blatant attempt “to try to justify the abuse of that power under the Terrorism Act. If we allow this to be done in our name, in our silent collusion, we become the architects of our own totalitarianism. We live in fear of speaking openly. We live in fear of enquiring and researching openly… We live in fear of the quiet unannounced knock on the door and we live in fear of our own shallowness, in terms of the willingness to stand side-by-side with each other in order to defend the very basis of an open democracy that we claim that terrorism is a threat to.”

I want to highlight this bit because it’s very important:

The only real grounds they had for suspecting anything to be amiss was the downloading of a book.

Of course, this very fact is now grounds for arrest. Under s.58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a person commits an offence if they “possesses a document or record containing information”… “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.


4 Responses

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  1. Mark Wadsworth said, on June 3, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I do not agree. The police only caught the Boston Strangler and the Yorkshire Ripper because of traffic offences. The fact that downloading this is perfectly harmless in itself does not excuse somebody from being an illegal immigrant. Rules is rules.

  2. ukliberty said, on June 3, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Of course not, but do we know whether or not he is an illegal immigrant?

    I think the fundamental point is that there is something harmless that is on a reading list, but someone is arrested for downloading it because of a silly law, and then the authorities attempt to justify the arrest by investigating the individual’s immigration status.

    It wouldn’t be the first time the authorities have abused the system.

    I await with interest the outcome of the judicial review of the decision to deport.

  3. Mark Wadsworth said, on June 3, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    That is a fair point. After they shot poor old De Menezes, didn’t the police try to claim he was an illegal immigrant?

    That said, I did live abroad for years and always kept my nose extra clean. If you’re a guest, you behave, is my view.

  4. ukliberty said, on June 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    After they shot de Menezes After de Menezes was shot, ‘sources’ claimed he was an illegal immigrant, that he had used cocaine, and that he was involved in a rape investigation.

    As far as I’m concerned, the authorities also failed when they chose not to correct the false claims in the media about his behaviour on the day – that he ran from police, that he was wearing a coat too heavy for the season, and so on. There were only a few false claims of this nature and one statement would have put paid to this. But it was in their interests for the majority of people to think that the fault lay in some way with de Menezes.

    Sadly, it appears to be the modus operandi of some in authority to traduce their victims.

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