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Published by Spin Watch
Key findings of an article written by Dr Rod Thornton exposing the University of Nottingham's attitude and behaviour that led to the wrongful arrests of Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza at the University of Nottingham under the Terrorism Act in May 2008
Key findings of an article written by Dr Rod Thornton exposing the University of Nottingham's attitude and behaviour that led to the wrongful arrests of Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza at the University of Nottingham under the Terrorism Act in May 2008

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Published by: Spin Watch on May 10, 2011
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The Behaviour of the University of Nottingham inRegard to Arrests of Rizwaan Sabir and HichamYezza (the Nottingham Two) in May 2008
The following is a condensed version of the article by Rod Thornton,
„Radicalisation at universities or radicalisation by 
universities: how a student‟suse of a library book became a “major Islamist plot”‟
. This full version isavailable here 
The Arrests
In May 2008, on the campus of the University of Nottingham, two young Muslimmen - a student and an administrator - were arrested by police under theTerrorism Act 2000. They were detained for six days. The student, RizwaanSabir, was gathering literature for an upcoming MA dissertation and PhD on AlQaeda. In January 2008, he had emailed three documents to a member of staff and friend
Hicham Yezza
who worked in the School of Modern Languages.Sabir was working with Yezza on drafting his PhD proposal. These threedocuments were also
all available from the university’s library
. They were anarticle from
Foreign Affairs
; an article from the
Middle East Policy Council Journal
, and a book called the
 Al Qaeda Training Manual
. Sabir had taken thelatter from the US Department of Justice (US DoJ) website. These three
documents were still on Yezza’s computer in May
2008 when an officecolleague spotted them (Yezza was not at work on this day). Their titles causedalarm. Senior academic staff in the School of Modern Languages wereinformed. The Registrar was told and the police were called in. Sabir and Yezzawere then arrested by officers from the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unitunder Section 41 of the Terrorism Act on suspicion of being involved in thecommission, preparation and instigation of an act of terrorism.
Main Points of the Report
The Registrar called in the police without carrying out a ‘riskassessment’. That is,
he asked them to come on campus without goingthrough all the procedures that were required of him according to:1.
Government guidelines;2.
The Common Law principle of duty of care, and3.
As required by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Registrar should have consulted first with senior academic staff andwith experts in the field of terrorism. The fact that no risk assessmenttook place is clear both from the Registrar
’s statement to the police
andfrom a letter the then Vice-Chancellor sent to the then Universities
 Minister, Bill Rammell. Subsequently, however, and with itsresponsibilities in mind, the university came to publicly state that the
decision to involve the police had been taken as a ‘collective decision’
after a ‘risk assessment’ had be
en conducted. This was not true; itwas the decision of one man
the Registrar.2.
The police came to make their arrests on the basis of informationsupplied to them by the Registrar and by a professor in the School of Modern Languages. Both of these two had cursory sight of the threedocuments. The Registrar had said that the
 Al Qaeda Training Manual
had ‘no valid re
ason whatsoever
to exist’,
and the professor hadcalled it
an ‘illegal document’. Neither man carried out
even a Googlesearch to investigate any of the three documents. Taking these two men- given their seniority -
to be ‘experts’,
the police made their arrests.3.
No one in senior management ever read the AQTM.4.
The university came to say that, in the whole affair, ‘no judgement
made by us’. But it was a university ‘judgement’ that led to the arrests
,not a police one
. Indeed, the day after Sabir’s arrest
, the universityprepared an exclusion letter for him. A judgement had clearly beenpassed on him.5.
Neither Sabir nor Yezza was contacted by the university during the sixdays of their incarceration. They received no support.6.
The university had said that Sabir had been arrested for ‘impeding policeinquiries’. This was not true. Sabir had no idea
that there was a policeinquiry going on.7.
The university had said that there were ‘no armed police on campus’
during the arrests. This was not true.8.
The university had said that the two men had been in
‘possession’ of ‘terrorist literature’. This was no
t true. And, anyway, even if they hadpossessed terrorist literature it is not a crime in the UK to do so.9.
The university was clearly limiting academic freedom by declaring abook - the AQTM - to be off limits to students at Nottingham University.(It was on reading lists at the University of Oxford).
The former Vice-Chancellor had written a letter to the
Times Higher Education Supplement
saying that an article written in relation to thearrests by three junior lecturers from the university had contained
elements that were ‘entirely false’. Th
e Vice-Chancellor, in doing so,defamed these three academics.11.
It was pointed out to the university hierarchy that the AQTM wasavailable from Amazon, The university then came out with thestatement that the version on Amazon was less complete than the oneSabir had downloaded. This was not true. The US DoJ version was one of the most benign available anywhere. The Amazon version was actuallylonger and more complete.12.
The type of information above was passed on by the university to boththe department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - which coversuniversities - and to the Home Office. Both government departments
came to accept the university’s line. Mr Rammell, indeed, was then to
refer to the situation at Nottingham as one where there had been
‘extremist literature on campus’. In fact, there had been a ‘librarybook’ on campus.
The former Vice-Chancellor had told Mr Rammell that students had been
‘encouraged’ by junior lecturers to access terrorist ‘materials’. This was
not true.14.
In briefings later to be made in these two government departments thefollowing, for instance, was stated:
It is important to note that the Training Manual found WAS NOT 
the version you can purchase on “Amazon”.
This was simply not true
or it was true insofar as the version onAmazon was actually longer and had
information, not less. This isan example of the truth not being told about this case of the
‘Nottingham Two’ at the highest levels of government.
Mr Rammell thought that the university had acted correctly and
‘responsibly’ –
despite the fact that it had followed none of theguidelines of his own department.16.
The Home Office distributed literature which claimed that the case of 
the ‘Nottingham Two’ was a ‘major Islamist plot’!
This has had follow-onconsequences. For one, Sabir is now clearly being subject to what canonly be classed as harassment by police.

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