University of Nottingham suspends whistleblower

Readers may remember a disgraceful incident that unfolded at the University of Nottingham in 2008. An MA student in the Politics Department, Rizwaan Sabir, asked a friend, Hicham Yezza, who worked as an administrator to print some documents he needed for his studies. Unfortunately for the two men, they are Muslim, and the documents were about Al-Quaeda. Cue: all Hell breaking loose. Despite the fact that the documents concerned are in the University of Nottingham’s library – I’m going to say that again – the documents are in the University of Nottingham’s library, and Rizwaan’s tutors confirmed that they were necessary for his research, the University called the police, and both men were arrested and detained for six days under the Terrorism Act. They were released without charge, as neither has any links whatsoever to any terrorist organisation. But of course, in these murky days of the War on Terror, there’s a big difference between being cleared, and being considered innocent. Once charged, forever tainted – both Yezza and Sabir have been subjected to various forms of harassment and constraint ever since. You can read about some of it on this campaign page.

Now, in a new twist to this sorry tale, Rod Thornton, a lecturer in Politics at the University of Nottingham, has just been suspended for criticising the way the University handled the incident. Thornton believes that the senior University personnel involved acted in ways that “can be classed as unfair, discriminatory, and sometimes, outright illegal”. He has called for a public investigation into the University’s actions. His accusations are based on a rigorous and detailed consideration of the evidence. Moreover, Thornton seems well-placed to understand these issues – before coming to academia, he spent nine years in the army, serving three years in Northern Ireland in a counter-terrorism role, which included a six-month period in a police station, operating in an intelligence capacity. You can read his description of events here.

An anonymous ‘university spokesman’ has called Thornton’s article “highly defamatory” of a number of his colleagues. The official reason for his suspension is apparently the “breakdown in working relationships with [his] colleagues caused by [his] recent article”.

You can read the Guardian article here.

15 thoughts on “University of Nottingham suspends whistleblower

  1. The paper is Quixotic and very defamatory to innocent colleagues. Much of his paper quotes “out of context” to strengthen his case.

  2. One must remember that the arrests occurred shortly after ‘islamists’ mercilessly killed innocent civilians in London. The police are damned if they do something, and in the case of the London bombings ‘taken apart’. The arrest was a precautionary measures taken against individuals downloading a very unsavory document designed to assist in the recruitment of terrorists. There have subsequently, been other arrests, and releases where the security services have probably deterred acts of terrorism, even though charges may not have ended up in court.

  3. Exactly, Anon. And the Soviet Secret Police did sometimes catch actual spies and criminals, which is why it was perfectly fine for Alexander Solzhenitsyn to be locked up for a little while. This is the price you pay for living in a free society.

    Or something.

  4. Publius. One cannot deny that ‘most’ countries secret police, get pretty close to abusing democracy and in many countries are damn right criminal. Which is why we should return our Habeus Corpus rules back to ‘Pre- Terrorist’ times. My view, is that the police should not arrest and detain anyone without good evidence and that if they do, the facts should be put before a Magistrate within 48 hours.

  5. The underlying structure is so familiar. There are what impartial outsiders could identify as

    1. The innocent
    2. The innocents’ protector
    3. The officials who behave in some way not well or badly.

    And then there’s the upper administration’s view, which seems to be that
    (1) is very suspect, (3) are properly doing their job, so (2) is beyond the pale and will be threatened or even quite severely punished.

    Upper administrations have all sorts of reasons for protecting the officials. One is that if there are law suits, they will be targeted. Sometimes it is a interpretation of the “chain of command;” i.e., it is understood that as long as you do what you are told to do, your boss will back you.

    I’ve experience from the outside the “chain of command” protection in religion, medicine and the academy. Knowledging that they are protected all the way up, the intermediate protectors, to whom one has mistakenly reported bad behavior, may simply and obviously lie. So one enters into a land of smoke and mirrors.

  6. Funny Anon appears here. Let us be philosophers here and ‘judge for ourselves’ whether the paper is “Quixotic and very defamatory to innocent colleagues” by reading it, as an institution of learning seems not to want us to do.

    I was only vaguely aware of the case at the time, but it is clear from this 100-odd page report that there is no defamation here, only assured and evidence backed assertion of the facts. Perhaps “Anon”, could tell us which “out of context” quotes the author provides, since the author is quite clear that he is glad to disclose all source material on request. Defamation implies that what is said is not true, however what is said here is backed by evidence (hundreds of footnotes and scores of documents), including the words of the key parties – their guilt is established in their own words, often words which show a total lack of care and even a thrill of hurting the innocent student at the centre of all this. Its all there in black and white out of their own words. Read it yourselves.

  7. Anon – which of the assertions made in the paper are defamatory? Is there an assertion in Dr. Thornton’s paper that isn’t backed by cold facts?

    In fact, Dr Thornton’s research paper is based on unusually thorough research and provides confirmation and evidence in the form of internal communications obtained via the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts, that university management and senior academics sought to smear the two men who were arrested in May 2008.

    In the face of such a thorougly researched paper, the burden of proof no longer rests with Dr. Thornton, but with the University of Nottingham – and with yourself, in fact, for claiming – without citing evidence of any kind – that his paper is defamatory.

  8. I do not know Dr Thornton but I can say that he is telling the truth. He is far from the only targeted and victimized whistle-blower at the University of Nottingham. There is a long trail of disgraced and ruined individuals before him who have been either silenced by compromise agreements or forced to leave. The tactics are always identical, as are the ‘cast of characters’. Only the ‘script’ is different in each case. This is an arrogant, corrupt, and demonstrably criminal organisation that operates flagrantly ‘beyond authority’. The senior management responsible for Dr Thornton’s treatment is collectively a disgrace to the international academy.

  9. Anonymous, it would be good to hear more. Without details and evidence, we have no reason to believe your claims.

  10. Being (dyed) blonde, blue eyed and female, I wonder if they’d arrest me as a terrorism suspect if I tried to use those same research materials for a paper?

  11. It’s alleged that one of the police officers called in to investigate ‘The Nottingham Two’ implied they wouldn’t.

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