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.