Terrorism research led to arrests


by Sunny
23rd May, 2008 at 1:48 am    

Angry emails are being circulated by people about this incident at Nottingham Uni:

A masters student at the University of Nottingham who was arrested under the Terrorism Act under suspicion of possessing extremist material was studying terrorism for his dissertation, Times Higher Education can reveal. Academics and students have expressed concerns about the police’s handling of the case, which saw police searching campus property.

Rizwaan Sabir, a 22-year-old who was studying in the politics department, was arrested along with a 30-year-old member of staff. Both were released without charge on 20 May after having been held in custody for six days.

Mr Sabir’s lawyer, Tayab Ali of McCormacks solicitors in London, told Times Higher Education that as preparation for a PhD on radical Islamic groups, Mr Sabir had downloaded an edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook from a US government website. It is understood that Mr Sabir sent the 1,500-page document to the staff member – who was subsequently arrested – because he had access to a printer. Mr Ali said: “The two members of the university were treated as though they were part of an al-Qaeda cell. They were detained for 48 hours, and a warrant for further detention was granted on the basis that the police had mobile phones and evidence taken from computers to justify this.”

The two were arrested on Friday, and then released on Tuesday.

The students have released an angry email press release stating:

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.

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 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.

Looks very heavy handed to me… I’m sure many people would say that these types of operations are necessary to prevent terrorism, but where do you draw the line? Would you be ok spending 6 days in prison (of course, the govt is trying to extend this to 42 days) while being told you were probably part of al-Qaeda?


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Filed in: Civil liberties,Terrorism






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  1. Roger — on 23rd May, 2008 at 4:40 am  

    “A masters student at the University of Nottingham who was arrested under the Terrorism Act under suspicion of possessing extremist material was studying terrorism for his dissertation”….Well, he was in possession of extremist material. The important question is, was his research practical or…er…academic?

  2. douglas clark — on 23rd May, 2008 at 5:56 am  

    Well, you draw the line at idiotic Plods assuming that knowledge is evil. If I happened to have a copy of Mein Kampf on my bookshelf – I don’t btw – would you automatically assume I agreed with it? That would be incredibly stupid. Yet that is what our Police seem to think.

  3. unitalian — on 23rd May, 2008 at 9:44 am  

    What a wonderful view it must be from the lofty heights of Douglas Clark. A giant raspberry to those “idiotic plods” labouring to save his pompous ass.

  4. fugstar — on 23rd May, 2008 at 11:01 am  

    interesting fieldwork experience. makes the eventual conculsions stand out more, from the evil ‘we solve your terror problem’ crap out there.

  5. Gavin Whenman — on 23rd May, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

    This case shows up the illogical fallacy of arresting people for mere possession of material. It shouldn’t be a crime to read something, no matter how undesirable Parliamentarians consider it. The key should be whether a criminal act is being planned, which in this case it clearly was not.

  6. Refresh — on 23rd May, 2008 at 12:18 pm  

    ‘interesting fieldwork experience.’

    I think if I was a publisher, I would sign him up and give the guy’s dissertation maximum publicity.

    Newspapers should offer him a syndicated column, and Notts. Uni. an Honorary Doctorate.

  7. Refresh — on 23rd May, 2008 at 12:21 pm  

    If this carries on, I can see a civil disobedience campaign where students everywhere are encouraged to download the material. Except muslims of course.

  8. Dave S — on 23rd May, 2008 at 12:32 pm  

    unitalian: So you don’t possess copies of any books you strongly disagree with then?

    I have plenty of books that could (in the wrong context) get me into trouble, including weapons training manuals (I’m a former martial artist), books detailing riots and assassinations and about everyone from fascists to communists to anarchists (I find history interesting), and even a copy of “Guerilla Warfare” by Che Guevara, which is basically a manual for how to start and carry out a revolution, including how to make Molotov cocktails, mortars and mines (purchased in HMV).

    I also have a copy of “Steal This Book” by Abbie Hoffman, which details how to make all kinds of bombs, carry out all kinds of scams, how to “Vamp” (initiate riots and trash things) and so on. It’s total crap by the way – good for a chuckle at best. My girlfriend got it from her friend for her birthday one year.

    I frequently visit websites and occasionally have printed materials that I strongly disagree with – for study, out of interest, to formulate my own opinions and arguments better.

    Whatever, the reason is irrelevant! Possession of and reading of offensive, violent, radical, revolutionary, lunatic materials means absolutely NOTHING without context – without action that confirms I support those opinions.

    I could spend all year reading al-Qaeda manuals and still not be a terrorist.

    Knowledge is not evil. Knowledge and possession of materials we strongly disagree with is not wrong. Even if we DO agree with them… so what?

    Are you telling me you’ve never had a day when you half wish someone would just assassinate a few high profile politicians, just to get the lying bastards out of our lives? You’d be a strange kind of ordinary citizen if that thought had never once crossed your mind in your entire life.

    A far greater evil lurks: that of the fear of reading the “wrong” materials, or posing the “wrong” ideas. That which limits our ability to think and form opinions – even make jokes – instead reducing us to a tightly controlled selection of “acceptable” lines of inquiry or interest. Nothing but totalitarianism lies that way.

    THAT is what’s happening here, and why everybody who dares to think and question for themselves should be up in arms about it.

    It seems to me that you’re far happier in the arms of Big Brother’s cosy embrace.

  9. Leon — on 23rd May, 2008 at 12:44 pm  

    Very well said, especially this bit:

    A far greater evil lurks: that of the fear of reading the “wrong” materials, or posing the “wrong” ideas. That which limits our ability to think and form opinions – even make jokes – instead reducing us to a tightly controlled selection of “acceptable” lines of inquiry or interest. Nothing but totalitarianism lies that way.

  10. Golam Murtaza — on 23rd May, 2008 at 1:09 pm  

    It has to be said. Dave S has just comprehensively kicked ARSE.

  11. fug — on 23rd May, 2008 at 1:17 pm  

    *6

    Well I cant imagine how his thesis would be worse than the sellouts already out there, some of whom have had incredibily little to sell.

    -the ht exmember numbskull who went all arab.
    -the ex ht member who was expelled for stealing cars.
    -the fool who only handed out a few leaflets for them yet wrote a book that the gits are all reading
    -the latest punk who went to medical school in the early 90s and didnt like the bros, who now has a ‘extremism test’ he’s trying to sell.

  12. Anas — on 23rd May, 2008 at 1:32 pm  

    University authorities also spoke of stopping groups or individuals who “unsettle the harmony of the campus.”

    Unsettle the harmony of the campus? What is this, fucking China? Needless to say this type of moronic heavy handedness has the effect of making a lot of people in the Muslim community wary of the police.

  13. unitalian — on 23rd May, 2008 at 4:45 pm  

    @10, I was well aware of the spelling, I just found the American less vulgar ;-)

    @8 “It seems to me that you’re far happier in the arms of Big Brother’s cosy embrace.”

    Not really.

    I was just standing up for the “idiotic plod”, whom Lord Douglas et al feel at liberty to slag off yet among whom I sincerely doubt they ever, say, considered a career – their sensitivity and intellect presumably being far too considerable for such menial activity.

    Far easier to moan about the working and lower-middle class toilers who do their level best to maintain the security of the blogging classes, and sometimes no doubt – not having the benefit of superior intellects like Lord Douglas and Dave Spart among them make silly mistakes – isn’t it.

  14. fugstar — on 23rd May, 2008 at 5:28 pm  

    PC plod is doing what his bosses tell him to do. PC plod may have the occasional powertrip, but its the policy people and social engineers who set targets and institutional attitudes that are the controlling force on him.

    on the otherhand, PC blog…

  15. Don — on 23rd May, 2008 at 5:46 pm  

    Anas,

    Quite. If I ever stumbled upon a harmonious university campus I’d suggest checking the water supply and looking for unusual and over-sized pods.

  16. Rumbold — on 23rd May, 2008 at 9:58 pm  

    Dave S:

    Exactly/ It is nice that you emerged from your cave.

  17. Dave S — on 24th May, 2008 at 11:31 am  

    From this link: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/05/399451.html

    One of the two men who were arrested at Nottingham University under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Wednesday 14th May is facing imminent deportation. Both men were released without charge after having been detained for 7 days. But one of them, a 30-year old member of university staff and non-British national was immediately re-arrested under immigration legislation.

    It has been reported that it is decided the original arrest has compromised his visa status, even though he was released without any charges. He now been moved to a detention centre and faces deportation on Sunday 1st June. The man was a well-known, widely liked and active on campus. Students, lecturers and the wider community have started mobilising to stop his deportation.

    So basically this guy (who I don’t know, but who friends of mine work with at the university) is going to be deported on June 1st (though I previously heard it would be this coming Tuesday), even though no charges were made, simply because getting arrested in the first place apparently violates the terms of his visa.

    I believe he’s from Algeria, and is thus likely to face torture if sent back, despite not being charged with any crime.

    So this is it really. The British totalitarian state is now disappearing people to almost certain torture for reading (or even handling) the “wrong” materials, even when there is a clear context for legitimate possession of those materials. Personally, I don’t think that should be the case even when there is no clear “legitimate” context for possession of those materials, because the slippery slope that line of thinking leads down is every bit as bad.

  18. fugstar — on 24th May, 2008 at 12:47 pm  

    and so the rest of the world needs to know, that the UK is not a suitable venue to come for further education.

  19. Anas — on 24th May, 2008 at 9:15 pm  

    The behaviour of the notts university authorities in this has been pretty dire. Free speech is clearly not high on the list of their priorities as was also demonstrated in another demonstration recently in which a student was arrested.

    Apparently there’s going to be a public reading of the terrorist material and silent demonstration on the main campus on Wednesday which I am planning to attend:

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/05/399428.html

  20. Dave S — on 25th May, 2008 at 6:03 pm  

    unitalian at #13:

    I was just standing up for the “idiotic plod”, whom Lord Douglas et al feel at liberty to slag off yet among whom I sincerely doubt they ever, say, considered a career – their sensitivity and intellect presumably being far too considerable for such menial activity.

    Far easier to moan about the working and lower-middle class toilers who do their level best to maintain the security of the blogging classes, and sometimes no doubt – not having the benefit of superior intellects like Lord Douglas and Dave Spart among them make silly mistakes – isn’t it.

    I can tell immediately that you have never attended any sort of protest or taken any kind of effective stand (meaning other than writing letters, signing petitions, maybe waving a placard though even that’s being heavily policed these days) against the government or corporations in the UK. I’d guess you probably haven’t even handed out grassroots campaign leaflets (say against the closure of a local swimming pool, or for better recycling facilities) in a town centre either?

    If you had done any of the above, you’d almost certainly have experienced first hand the kind of idiotic (sometimes just outright fascist) policing that goes on in this country.

    Sure you can go out and protest! Free speech – woohoo!! As long as you clear it in advance with the police, or stand where they “let” you stand (usually about 2 miles away from anywhere you’d be seen by other members of the public).

    It’s for health and safety reasons, you see Sir? Just stand behind the fence please. Just doing my job, Sir.

    Meanwhile the police turn up in force to protect all kinds of heinous corporate scumbags; arms dealers, rampant polluters, asylum seeker imprisoners, you name it. They’ll also shove cameras in your face repeatedly, and even follow you home sometimes.

    Or those clueless authoritarian PCSO cop-wannabes hassle you and try to take your name and address for simply handing out leaflets somewhere!?

    Democracy sometimes happens in this country, but it’s in spite of politicians and the police, not because of them.

    “Free” country my arse! Campaigners and activists on even the most low-level issues are now routinely harassed, followed and photographed relentlessly by the police. Intimidation is the name of the game – keep your head down, go to work, come home and watch TV.

    Don’t get arrested, either – even for something spurious! Even if they’ve got nothing on you (because you weren’t actually breaking any laws, they just felt like messing with you), they’ll still send seven cops round to conduct a token “raid” on your house. (Yes, this happened at my house when my girlfriend got arrested for protesting recently.)

    Incidentally, I have never yet been arrested myself – and why should I have been? I’ve pushed a few boundaries in my time as a campaigner on various issues, but so far have been quite lucky (and wise in bailing at the right moment so as not to get needlessly arrested). I’m sure the police know all about me though – I don’t even know how many times they’ve taken my picture, but it’s A LOT.

    We’re living in a police state, and while they may well be “just doing their job”, last I checked, that wasn’t an acceptable excuse at eg. the Nuremburg trials.

    PC Plod on the street may have good intentions, may even really care about the public, but at the end of the day, is still just a lackey of the state, following laws that we average folks have practically zero say in. (Certainly voting gives us zero say in such things as whether arms manufacturers can operate in our towns, for example.)

    The police are not friends of ordinary people, by definition. Never have been, never will be – though (as much as it pains me to say it) there are plenty of them who are nice enough people and honestly believe that they are on our side. But take one look at who is making the laws, or take one step out onto any sort of effective non-government-sanctioned protest or direct action, and you will see exactly what kind of power-tripping authoritarian idiots the police are full of.

    Not many people know this, but I considered a career in the police once upon a time. Just wanted to do my bit, to help society and so on. I’m just really glad that wasn’t the only thing I was trying to do at the time to help society, because if it wasn’t for all the other things I gradually realised were complete illusions (such as the ability to actually exercise any real democracy, as opposed to imaginary democracy called “voting”) I might never have realised.

    The police are employees of the state, who’s job is to do as they are told by the state. When the state makes it’s citizens the enemy, the police are first in line to “just do their job” in protecting their masters.

    So, with respect, come back once you know what you’re talking about!

  21. Anas — on 25th May, 2008 at 7:27 pm  

    Spot on Dave. Like the saying goes the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. And that means it’s incumbent on us the public to always keep a keen eye on those who make the laws *and* those who enforce them. And sadly that might sometimes mean hurt feelings for the police — but they can look after themselves, I’m sure.

  22. douglas clark — on 25th May, 2008 at 11:24 pm  

    unitalian,

    Are you just a troll? I’m only asking? You said this at 3:

    What a wonderful view it must be from the lofty heights of Douglas Clark. A giant raspberry to those “idiotic plods” labouring to save his pompous ass.

    Well, if they were labouring to save my ‘pompous ass’ from something, I might be impressed. What, exactly, are they saving me from? Folk reading books? And this, according to you and Mr Plod, constitutes a problem? Well, thank you, even without you and Mr Plod, I feel relatively secure. Certainly from my ‘lofty heights’ which don’t actually exist in reality. Probably a little above the blast radius of your mutual stupidity.

    The cops check your bookshelf by default, did you not know that?

    And so, we move on to this:

    I was just standing up for the “idiotic plod”, whom Lord Douglas et al feel at liberty to slag off yet among whom I sincerely doubt they ever, say, considered a career – their sensitivity and intellect presumably being far too considerable for such menial activity.

    Far easier to moan about the working and lower-middle class toilers who do their level best to maintain the security of the blogging classes, and sometimes no doubt – not having the benefit of superior intellects like Lord Douglas and Dave Spart among them make silly mistakes – isn’t it.

    Which is a lot of shit, isn’t it?

    Firstly, I have less of an income than even a Constable. Do you not remember when it was decided that, in order to uphold middle class values the Police themselves were given a middle class lifestyle. I think it was shortly after the Miners Strike.

    Which makes the notion that you are ‘standing up for working and lower middle class toilers’ a bit hard to stomach.

    You, frankly have not a clue how a bureacracy works. For your information, daft wee, power mad lunatics, on a corporate ladder to Chief Constable, twist legislation to their own ends, viz the arrest of a protestor at the Labour Party Conference a few years ago. That is almost as satirical as Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize, or you winning the just announced ‘Most Sensible Commentator on Pickled Politics’

    And neither you, nor your heros’ are doing a damn thing to ‘make me feel safe’, which is a pretty idiotic concept – though shared by H & S executives everywhere…

  23. Golam Murtaza — on 26th May, 2008 at 10:57 am  

    A little addition. The National Union of Journalists is continually having to demand senior police officers tell their frontline officers that they DO NOT have the right to confiscate camera film / memory cards off newspaper photographers doing their job.

    It seems a hell of a lot of our police men and women aren’t getting the message.

  24. Dave S — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:44 am  

    Just got this in my inbox:

    Press release:

    From: a group of concerned students and academics at the University of Nottingham.

    For immediate use, 24/05/08 SATURDAY

    Notts Uni detainee innocent but still facing deportation.

    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.

    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 been writing editorials for the 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.

    Alf Nilsen, a research fellow at in the school of Politics and International Relations says ‘This is a clear case of the police trying to cover up their completely unjustified targeting of these two innocent men by making Hicham look guilty by deporting him. Hicham is entirely innocent and the rushed and heavy-handed way in which the authorities are dealing with this matter is outrageous.’

    Dr. Alf Gunvald Nilsen
    RCUK Fellow, Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham

    Nowadays I can no longer count on my fingers alone the number of people I personally know who have been deliberately harassed and unfairly attacked by various agents of the state. The unmistakable stench of fascism is getting awfully close to home.

    The way things are going, perhaps Nottingham Uni will be offering degree courses in it pretty soon…

  25. douglas clark — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:57 am  

    Err,

    Maybe we should start a blog campaign on behalf of Hicham Yezza? It would at least raise the profile a bit.

    Nowadays I can no longer count on my fingers alone the number of people I personally know who have been deliberately harassed and unfairly attacked by various agents of the state. The unmistakable stench of fascism is getting awfully close to home.

    I do not personally know a lot of people this has happened to, however we really do need to stop this sort of vindictiveness, before it becomes widespread.

  26. Dave S — on 28th May, 2008 at 10:05 am  

    douglas clark:

    I do not personally know a lot of people this has happened to, however we really do need to stop this sort of vindictiveness, before it becomes widespread.

    Perhaps it’s because I live in a city with a good deal of cross-communication between various campaigns here? I don’t know.

    But I’m afraid this and similar kinds of repression are already fairly widespread, just under reported in the mainstream.

  27. Dave S — on 28th May, 2008 at 10:15 am  

    In fact, the easiest way to experience it first hand (currently) is to go to any kind of anti arms trade demonstration. Pick any you like… really!

    In fact, recently the police have even tried to prevent anti arms trade film nights from taking place – Google “smash edo on the verge film” and learn.

    Evidently peaceniks against the arms trade pose such a massive threat to the establishment that it’s worth the investment of thousands of hours of police time and goodness knows how much taxpayers money. (Now, call me tight fisted, but I personally object quite a lot to paying for my own repression!)

    Gordon “Gandhi will be my inspiration” Brown – yeah right! Pants on fire, Gordon?

  28. Anas — on 28th May, 2008 at 11:14 am  

    Indira Gandhi?

  29. douglas clark — on 28th May, 2008 at 4:53 pm  

    Dave S,

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you or anything like that. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sorry if it came across otherwise.

    I liked this bit:

    Now, call me tight fisted, but I personally object quite a lot to paying for my own repression!

    Me too.

  30. Dave S — on 29th May, 2008 at 9:49 pm  

    Douglas: No worries, I didn’t think you were disagreeing with me! Was just sharing my experience of “how to go out and get repressed in Britain”.

    It’s a really fun passtime, and now widely available thanks to lots of vaguely worded laws that can be used by Plods everywhere to create it with impunity!

    A couple of days repression experience should be on the school curriculum for every kid, I reckon. ;-)

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