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Rizwaan Sabir (born 1985) is a student with the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, where he is researching British and Scottish Counterterrorism. He was, until September 2009, studying for a Ph.D at the University of Nottingham on the Evolution of Global Militant Islam. In May 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the 'commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism', or section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The specific offence related to his possession of an al-Qaeda training manual that he had downloaded for his doctoral research from a US government wesbite. He was released without charge after 6 days.

Contents

Life

Rizwaan Sabir was born and raised in the Sneinton area of Nottingham. He attended the Greenwood Dale School and sixth form and completed his undergraduate degree in politics at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He then went onto study for a Master's degree in International Relations at the University of Nottingham. He began his Ph.D at Nottingham University and was researching the evolution of militant Islam and eventually left in September 2009. At present he is studying for a Ph.D on British and Scottish Counterterrorism at the University of Strathclyde, in partnership with the Scottish Islamic Foundation.

Arrest as Suspected Terrorist

On May 14 2008, Rizwaan Sabir was arrested and detained for six days, with Principle Administrator Hicham Yezza (dubbed the Nottingham Two), under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of being involved in the 'commission, preperation or instigation of an act of terrorism'. The specific grounds for the arrest were premised on Sabir's possession of an Al-Qaeda training manual, which he had downloaded from the United States Department of Justice website for his PhD research on Militant Islam.[1][2][3][4] The operation was codenamed Minerva and was headed by the newly formed West Midlands Counterterrorism Unit. The total cost of the operation was £53,307.[5]

After six days of detention, both men were released without charge from suspected terrorist offences, but Hicham Yezza was immediately re-arrested on immigration charges due to alleged visa irregularities. He was held at numerous immigration detention centres for 31 days, but due to widespread pressure and protests, the Home Office revoked its decision to deport Yezza and granted him a court-hearing.[6][7][8]

Upon his release, Sabir stated: “the power of the state hit me as hard as it could”,[1] described his experience as "the lowest-time in his life"[9] and "the most degrading [and] dehumanising encounter [he's] ever experienced".[10] According to reports by Al-Jazeera, Sabir states he was "subjected to psychological torture" and believes that "If [the UK] is trying to stop the radicalisation of Muslims the way to do that is not by locking away innocent people... That will only exacerbate the problem."[10] Sabir has stated that he will continue with his PhD despite the recent events and use his experiences to raise awareness of the draconian anti-terror powers that the government has implemented.[10]

Academic Freedom

Due to the arrests of Rizwaan Sabir & Hicham Yezza, the University of Nottingham has come under intense criticism for sacrificing academic freedom and failing to protect the right of its students and staff from conducting research free from the threat of arrest and detention under the Terrorism Act.[11] Criticism for the University of Nottingham has recently increased since the Politics Department established a “module review committee” that “scrutinises” the “reading lists of lecturers” in case they contain “material that is illegal or could incite violence”.[12]

David Miller, professor of sociology at the University of Strathclyde and the convenor of Teaching About Terrorism, said “Nottingham's review policy represented a fundamental attack on academic freedom. The module review committee is a censorship committee: it can't operate as anything else. The university is acting as the police, one step removed."[12]

After Sabir was released, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University – Sir Colin Campbell controversially stated:

"There is no 'right' to access and research terrorist materials. Those who do so run the risk of being investigated and prosecuted on terrorism charges. Equally, there is no 'prohibition' on accessing terrorist materials for the purpose of research. Those who do so are likely to be able to offer a defence to charges (although they may be held in custody for some time while the matter is investigated).[13]

Critics have argued that the University of Nottingham's stance is setting a very dangerous precedent for research on an issue (terrorism) that is very contemporary and very popular amongst many university students. A lecturer in the school of politics and international relations stated:

“We are greatly concerned by the disproportionate nature of the university’s response to the possession of legitimate research materials. Both the individuals are unreservedly innocent and they and their families and friends and have been greatly distressed by the overzealous police investigation. It is crucial that we do not let concerns for security become the enemy of liberty and academic freedom”[14]

Criticism for the University of Nottingham has increased since the only Terrorism Expert at the institution, Dr Rod Thornton, decided recently that because of the lack of willingness from the university to provide assistance and guidance to him regarding reading lists and terrorist publications and whether they were okay to disseminate and legitimate to hold, he was no longer willing to risk his own security and liberty by teaching terrorism at Nottingham University. He has since returned to the family confectionery retail business.[15] As a result, terrorism is no longer being taught at the University of Nottingham.[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Nottingham Scholar Held for Six Days Under Anti-Terror Law". Times Higher Education. 29th May 2008. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=402188&sectioncode=26. 
  2. ^ "Student Researching Al-Qaeda Tactics Held for Six Days". The Guardian. 24th May 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/may/24/highereducation.uk. 
  3. ^ "It Really is Psychological Torture". The Guardian. 11th June 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2008/jun/11/rizwaan.sabir. 
  4. ^ "Victim of State Islamaphobia Speaks Out". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRVGOD0fQlM. 
  5. ^ West Midlands Police Freedom of Information Request No. 3034/09
  6. ^ "Draconian Home Office Fast-Tracks Algerian's Deportation". The Independent. 25th May 2008. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/draconian-home-office-fasttracks-algerians-deportation-834031.html. 
  7. ^ "Students Protest Deportation Plans". The BBC. 28th May 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/7423544.stm. 
  8. ^ "Former Terror Suspect Given Bail". The BBC. 17th June 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/7457338.stm. 
  9. ^ "Al-Qaeda Download Sparked my Arrest". The Nottingham Evening Post. 23rd May 2008. http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/displayNode.jspnodeId=133942&command=displayContent&sourceNode=229136&home=yes&more_nodeId1=133951&contentPK=20698035. 
  10. ^ a b c "UK Faces Battle Over Detention Vote". Al Jazeera. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2008/06/200861502010227558.html. 
  11. ^ "Researchers Have No Right to Study Terrorist Materials". Times Higher Education. 17th July 2008. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=402844. 
  12. ^ a b "Reading Lists Inspected for Capacity to Incite Violence". Times Higher Education. 25th June 2009. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=407122.. 
  13. ^ "Nottingham Scholar Held for Six Days Under Anti-Terror Law". Times Higher Education. 29th May 2008. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=402188&sectioncode=26. 
  14. ^ "Academic Freedom and The Study of Terror". The Sacrificial Devotion and Virulent Politics Research Network. http://sacrificialdevotionnetwork.wordpress.com/2008/06/18/academic-freedom-and-the-study-of-political-terror/. 
  15. ^ "Terror and Academic Freedom". The Guardian. 5th February 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/05/terrorism-study-uk-university. 
  16. ^ "Terror and Academic Freedom". The Guardian. 5th February 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/05/terrorism-study-uk-university. 
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