Oct 15

On the 14th May 2008,  former PhD student and principal school administrator for the school of modern languages at Nottingham University, Hicham Yezza, was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2o00. Yezza, or ‘Hich’ to his friends, was detained for having a copy of the Al Qaeda training manual on his computer. The manual was part of PhD student Rizwaan Sabir’s academic research. However, rather than ask  what the manual was doing on his computer, the University alerted the police to the terrorist document, who came and arrested the two men within hours. The pair were held for 6 days and then later released without charge.

Shortly after he was released, Hich was rearrested, this time over descrepancies with his immigration papers. After the extent of mass media coverage (including BBC, and Channel 4 News), the government were embarrassed and wanted to pin something else on Hich to redeem themselves. The new charges meant that although Hich had been living, studying and working in the UK for the past 14 years, he faced deportation back to his home country of Algeria in weeks.

Needless to say he fought his case, but was charged with ‘avoidance of enforcement action via deceptive means’ and sentenced to 9 months in prison. Hich is a renowned and respected member of the student, staff and wider Nottingham community and has never been deceptive about his whereabouts. The government’s ‘reign of terror’, instilled by the sense of fear sparked by the attacks on 9/11 has become an excuse for wreckless attitudes to civil liberties, putting the British justice system into massive disrepute.

Yesterday I met up with Hich. He was released on the 12th August from HMP High Down in Surrey. Ever the optimist and with an endless sense of compassion, he made the most of his time inside – helping foreign nationals with their immigration papers and English, proof reading academic papers and starting work on his own book. He is an incredible man, who, ironcially works for the better peace and justice of the world, quite the furthest from the terrorist he was once branded.

You can order the latest issue of his magazine Ceasefire here. Hich is also organising an event in Nottingham to celebrate human rights and civil liberties in November. I will keep you posted.

One comment

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