On 6 March 2009, Hicham Yezza, a university PhD student, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment after being convicted of ‘securing avoidance of enforcement action via deceptive means’.
Hicham who was a university administrator, underwent a six week detention ordeal after being arrested in May 2008. The case raises many issues about civil liberties and academic freedom.
Hicham Yezza, employed by the School of Languages and Culture at the University of Nottingham, was originally arrested alongside politics student Rizwaan Sabir on 14 May 2008 under the Terrorism Act 2000. Having found supposedly radical material on Hicham’s computer, a member of staff alerted the authorities.
The material was in fact an Al-Qaeda training manual, readily available for download on a US government website and also on Amazon.com, in a more detailed version. Rizwaan, researching for his PhD on ‘the American Approach to Al Qaeda in Iraq’ had forwarded the 1,500-page document to Hicham, who had agreed to print it out for him. Upon finding the manual was clearly legitimate and relevant research material, the pair were released without charge six days later.
Almost immediately, Hicham was rearrested under immigration powers as he did not possess the correct documentation to remain in the UK. A scheduled hearing to decide his status was cancelled and he was informed he would be summarily deported back to Algeria. Considering that he had resided in the UK for thirteen years without the authorities ever seeking to challenge his right to live and work here up until his arrest, this move was deemed suspect by a number of MPs and other supporters. Widespread protest against Hicham’s treatment alongside an application seeking a judicial review of the Home Office’s decision resulted in this deportation order being cancelled. Despite this, the Home Office refused to grant him temporary release and Hicham was then sent to various immigration removal centres as his case was continuously referred between authorities. Having spent a further twenty-one days in detention, the bail application made by his legal team was finally successful and he was released in spite of strong opposition from the Home Office. Hicham was then charged and, a few weeks ago, found guilty of deliberately giving false information at an immigration interview in 2007.
The case originally attracted attention because of the grounds of arrest under the Terrorism Act and the extended periods of detention both men suffered.
The use of detention under the Terrorism Act showed that arrest powers were being used before investigation – a fundamental attack on democratic rights. That the University of Nottingham made no attempt to oppose the arrests had resulted in unrest within its staff, some of whom had condemned the university’s handling of the case.
Hicham is currently being held at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes but plans to appeal the conviction. You can help Hicham by:
- Write to Hicham Yezza XP9266: HMP Woodhill, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, MK4 4DA.
- Do you know Hicham personally and have you been involved in society/community activities with him? You might be able to help Hicham’s legal case. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Donate to the legal fund. There is still a backlog of legal funds which needs to be paid. Hicham has not been permitted to work since May 2008 and all donations have made a huge difference. (Sort Code: 40 02 05, Account Number: 81474715, IBAN number: gb44midl40020581474715, International Swift Code: midlgb2140c).