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.
Notes for editors
- 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.
- Hicham is employed as PA to the Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Professor Lesley Milne.
- 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.