A masters degree student at Nottingham University, who was engaged in research, was detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida relalrled material he he downloaded. Depsite, Nottingham university supervisors insisting to the police the material was directly relevlant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir was heald for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act and accused of downloading material for illegal use. The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to put into action a “prevent agenda” against terrorism are preventing the development of necessary intellectual research, which, ironically can assist in efforts to combat terrorism.
Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university satff member on an administrator’s computer. The administrator, Hishm Yezza, downloaded the material because the young man could not have afforded costs in doing it by himself. Both were arrested, their homes searched, and their cell phones taken. After being released without any charges, Yezza, who is Algerian, was rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.
Sabir was shook by the experience and says he was told he had downloaded an illegal document which could not be used for research. Students at the university are preparing a petition which condemns actions of the administration.
As a doctoral student in the sixties I did research on Communist China and examined many documents from that country. Under today’s criteria, I probably would have spent time in jail. I still have absolutely no idea how a document can be “illegal!”