After the Nottingham witch-hunt the authorities are trying to spare their blushes by deporting Hicham Yezza. This is a very old phenomenon in policing, if you put a lot of resources into an operation and come up with nothing careers are in jeopardy, but if you can fiddle some kind of ‘result’ in this case the spurious arrests of Yezza and attempt to fast track deport him then something can be salvaged and asses get covered.
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.”
There is also the risk that because of the circumstances surrounding the attempted deportation the Algerian authorities could torture Yezza-
Amnesty International- Algeria: Briefing to the Committee Against Torture 17 April 2008.
Algerian law does not provide sufficient safeguards to protect detainees from torture and other ill-treatment. Moreover, the safeguards set in law are, in practice, disregarded when persons are arrested and detained on suspicion of links with terrorism. Such suspects are routinely held by the DRS incommunicado and in secret places of detention.
The most frequent reports of torture, as received by Amnesty International, include beatings, electric shocks, and the chiffon method, which consists in tying down a detainee and forcing him to swallow large quantities of dirty water, urine or chemicals through a cloth placed in themouth. Detainees have also reported being stripped of their clothes and humiliated, beaten on the soles of their feet (a method known as falaka), and suspended by the arms from the ceiling for prolonged periods during interrogation. In some cases, detainees allege that they were threatened that their female family members would be arrested and raped; in others, male detainees are alleged to have been sexually abused although few details are available due to the cultural sensitivity surrounding the issue of sexual violence against men in Algeria.
On 19 February 2008, at least 30 detainees at El Harrach prison in Algiers,were reported to have been beaten severely by prison guards after they and other inmates refused to return from the prison yard to the ward of the prison in which they were held in protest at the transformation of their prayer zone into accommodation for more detainees. According to the information obtained by Amnesty International, they were taken individually or in groups of two or three to a hall where they were stripped naked, kicked, punched, beaten with metal bars, insulted and threatened with sexual abuse. One inmate sustained a broken leg, another had his jaw fractured, and a third sustained an injury to his nose. The detainees were then reportedly placed in solitary confinement as punishment, were denied visits for three days and medical care. No investigation is known to have been conducted into these alleged assaults despite complaints made by lawyers for the prisoners, who were able to visit them three days later.
So first line of attack contact your MP
More details and other info as it comes. This story has had scant mention in national media, what the authorities are looking to do is spirit him out of the country to seal his lips. They will ruin his career, his life and put him in jeopardy of torture all because he…helped a friend save money by printing out a long document, incidentally such a dangerous document it is openly available on a US government website. Link here. Or fas.org/irp/world/para/manualpart1.html or cryptome.org/alq-terr-man.htm. As Lenin points out you can buy it in book form from Amazon!
Updates from Dave in comments-
There has been a massive swathe of media interest in the situation existing at Nottingham University in the wake of last week’s wrongful arrest of two innocent members of the University community.
If you haven’t seen the reports, take a look:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/7415685.stm (Front page of ‘Nottinghamshire’ section)
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/05/399428.html – Press release for demonstration
If you want to hear how our colleague Rizwaan feels about what has happened, take a look at this news report:
Many academics from around the world are writing to the university to express their concerns about what has happened here. Read the rest of this entry »