Feb 22

Hicham Yezza, academic, campaigner, research student and magazine editor, who has been living in Nottingham for 13 years.

His name first came to light on May 14th last year, when he was arrested on campus under the Terrorism Act 2000 for possessing a copy of the ‘Al-Qaeda Training Manual’ on his computer, which postgraduate student, Rizwaan Sabir had downloaded from the U.S. Department of Justice Web site, in preparation for his PhD proposal, which Hicham was helping him with. Both men were held without explanation or charge for 6 days. Staff and students alike were outraged as the University had complied more willingly with the Police than members of its own community and because of the implications on academic freedom. When finally released, Hicham was re-arrested under the Immigration Act and fast-tracked for deportation on 1st June, in a move that was considered by many to be highly political and suspect.

This shock re-arrest lead to the ‘Free Hich’ campaign, one of the largest appeals against deportation in British history. Academics, M.P’s and students in Nottingham and across the country showed their support for Hich’s plight and the fast-track date was cancelled.

For the next 8 months, Hich would give talks on topics of civil liberties and Anti-Terror legislation, show film screenings on issues of human rights, working to raise awareness of the issues involved and gaining support for his cause.

Then on Wednesday 28th January, Hich was involved with a peaceful sit-in inside one of the lecture theatre on campus, Peaceful Protestin solidarity with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The sit-in followed a number of other Universities in the UK who were staging a similar passive protest in order to have a set of demands met by the University. It attracted local and national media coverage and support from academics such as Professor Noam Chomsky and local M.P. Alan Simpson.

Students involved in the occupation made it clear that they had no intent on disrupting any lectures and that they should carry on as normal in the room, but the University felt that this was unacceptable and proceeded to cancel all scheduled lectures for the foreseeable future. A decision that was deeply regretted and contested by the protestors. Throughout the sit-in, a number of gigs, lectures and open discussions were held in the room, but the University was not prepared to engage in any dialogue with the protestors and so the occupation continued.

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham SouthAlan Simpson reaffirmed his support by giving a lecture inside the occupied room, detailing his experiences in Gaza and giving words of encouragement to those involved in the sit-in, and a room full of both staff and students.

On Friday 30th January, Stephen Duddridge, director of student operations and support, entered the occupied room, along with security and a police van waiting ouside and continued to read a statement on behalf of Nottingham University management ‘ask[ing] formally that this occupation be brought to an immediate end’, that ‘no dialogue will take place whilst this room is occupied’ and that the reason for this response from the university was because the occupation ‘has caused considerable disruption to the experience of students, staff and the wider harmony of the campus.’ As previously mentioned, those involved in the sit-in had never intended to disrupt the learning of fellow students, it was the University who took action to cancel lectures in the occupied room. The University then shut off all electricity to the room and closed the building, preventing anyone from entering.Saturday 31st January Baroness Tonge, member of the House of Lords, visited the occupied building to show her support, but the University management prevented her from access to the peaceful occupation, and so she was forced to deliver the planned address from outside the building.

Finally, after the sit-in had reached it’s fifth day, members of University management re-entered the room, explaining to Students forced out into the coldthe protestors that if they did not leave the room within the next two minutes, members of security would come in and remove them. Of course the students remained in the room, as that’s kind of the point in a sit-in, and so security proceeded to manhandle the protestors out of the room, forcing them outside into the snow, whilst confiscating recording equipment along the way. To see a video taken by one of the protestors as they were removed from the building, click here.

The Media were banned from entering campus, but luckily URN managed to continue coverage of the situation. We tried to talk to Stephen Duddridge and members of security but no one would speak to us and we were directed to the University’s press office who then gave us a statement.

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On February the 6th, Hich and other protestors launched the ‘Books not Bombs’ appeal, starting with a rally on campus. The initiative aims to get the University of Nottingham to donate educational equipment to children and students living in Gaza.

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Unfortunately, since then Hich has been re-arrested for the same discrepancies over his immigration papers raised last year and had his trial 2 weeks ago. He facesdeportation and up to 2 years in jail. He is currently working together with his legal team to fight the prosecution and needs as much support as he can get. I’ll keep you up-to-date with Hich’s progress, but in the mean time, I urge everyone to pledge their support for Hich’s case, so that such an intelligent, influential and kind individual is able to stay in this country.

Audio to follow….


  1. Jennie Holloway /

    Firstly I would like to wish my support for Hich in his legal battle. I can not even begin to comprehend how he must feel, being isolated and victimised in this way. What I wonder is how many other people in Britain have been subject to similar and equally unjustified treatment, yet isn’t fortunate enough to have the support of a university community behind them in their battle, perhaps resulting in regrettable and undesirable consequences.

  2. Thanks for this post, it’s shocking to see how Nottingham has descended into repression so quickly. First the wrongful arrests and the suspicious relationship with the police to clamp down on peacful protest, then the violent eviction of a sit-in (not seen in ANY other university so far), then banning the media from campus … it’s like a microcosm of a state being taken over by fascism!

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