Academics at the UK's Nottingham University were arrested as terrorists for downloading Al Qaeda documents from a US government server in the course of research into a Master's degree convering terrorist tactics. The two UK-born profs were released, but the student faces deportation to Algeria under the Terrorism Act, where he believes he will be tortured. The university -- which encouraged its staffers to rat out people they thought were involved in researching terrorism -- refuses to acknowledge that anything is wrong with any of this.
Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.
The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a "prevent agenda" against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.
Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrator's computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabir's family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.