May 29, 2008

Disgraceful events at Nottingham University

CAFAS - Council for Academic Freedom & Academic Standards - 7 Benn Street, London E9 FSU

29 May

The Home Secretary
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Dear Home Secretary

You are no doubt aware that a member of the staff of the University of Nottingham, Hicham Yezza, who has resided and worked in the UK for the last thirteen years, is currently under threat of almost immediate deportation.

Mr Yezza has found himself in this predicament as a consequence of having helped a postgraduate student, Rizwaan Sabir, who asked him to print a copy of an al-Quaida document that Mr Sabir had downloaded from a US military website in the public domain. Mr Sabir’s academic supervisors confirm that the document in question is directly relevant to his research. Both men were initially arrested in connection with this document, but subsequently freed without charge. But Mr Yezza was rearrested on grounds related to his immigration status, and now faces deportation.

CAFAS takes the view that the original arrest and detention of these members of the University was unwarranted. We accept that, in the current climate of opinion, the police may well have had concerns about Mr Sabir’s interest in the al-Quaida document, and the assistance Mr Yezza gave him. But these concerns could surely have been quickly resolved, without breaching the principle of academic freedom, simply by consulting the academic staff in charge of the research in question.

We are not in a position to evaluate the immigration problems Mr Yezza is now said to face. But it is clear that these problems have surfaced solely as a consequence of the involvement of the police in Mr Sabir’s academic research, the legitimacy of which is seemingly no longer challenged.

In the circumstances, we think it absolutely vital that Mr Yezza be provided with a proper opportunity to prepare his defence and to have his case impartially examined by the Courts. To deport him without his being allowed this opportunity to defend himself would be patently unjust. We therefore urge you to delay deportation long enough for this process to take its course.

If you do not feel able to do this, I should be grateful if you would explain why, so that I may circulate your explanation to our members in UK universities.

Yours sincerely

Geraldine Thorpe
Assistant Co-ordinator, CAFAS

Cc Liam Byrne, MP

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