According to Hicham Yezza, the Home Office operates with a “Gestapo mentality”, especially when dealing with foreign nationals. Hicham, an active member of the academic community at the University of Nottingham, should know. He is in detention, facing rapid deportation to Algeria, an innocent victim of New Labour’s spurious “war on terror”.
Hicham’s nightmare began when he offered to print a long document about Al Qaeda for a student who couldn’t afford to do so himself. The document was downloaded from a US government website and was background for a dissertation. Step forward the thought police, aka the university authorities. They weren’t going to let academic freedom or human rights stand in their way, and alerted the police. The frightened, small-minded authorities were, of course, just carrying out government instructions to report behaviour thought to be “suspicious”.
Hicham was promptly arrested along with another student under the government’s anti-terror laws. After six days of detention, both were released without charge. With egg on their faces from a wrongful arrest, the police decided that Hicham was fair game anyway and he was promptly handed over to the immigration authorities and charged with some visa infraction. With Hicham due to contest this, the charges were dropped in favour of a “fast track” deportation to Algeria without a hearing.
Yet Hicham has lived, worked and studied in Nottingham for the past 13 years. He won scholarships to study for two degrees and was later employed by the university. Hicham is the long-time editor of Ceasefire magazine, the journal of Nottingham Student Peace Movement. During his time at Nottingham, Hicham has served as a member of the Student’s Union Executive Committee, and on the University Senate.
Hicham’s case has enraged many students and staff as well as local MP Alan Simpson. He has protested to the immigration minister, Liam Byrne, and Simpson said: "It seems to me that this is a clumsy response under anti-terrorism legislation to the incident at Nottingham University. I can see no reason for an emergency deportation other than to cover the embarrassment of police and intelligence services.”
Supporters, who will rally outside the university library tomorrow, have been able to talk with Hicham and he told them: “The Home Office operates with a Gestapo mentality. They have no respect for human dignity and human life. They treat foreign nationals as disposable goods - the recklessness and the cavalier approach they have belongs to a totalitarian state.” The support he has received, Hicham added, was “extremely heartening and humbling” and reflected “the spirit of the generous, inclusive Britain we know - and not the faceless, brutal, draconian tactics of the Home Office”.
The British state under New Labour is now into its sixth piece of “anti-terror” legislation since 2000, all of which have eroded human rights and criminalised the Muslim community. The latest bill contains measures that ride roughshod over the rule of law, especially the ancient right to be charged and brought before a court or set free. The proposal for up to 42 days pre-charge detention is tantamount to imprisonment without trial. It is also long enough to inflict severe psychological and physical damage on people picked up under this dictatorial plan.
As social revolt grows over the impact of the global economic crisis in terms of food and fuel prices – lorry drivers are staging a mass protest in London today – the potential for using anti-terror laws against a range of protestors is clearly present. Discredited New Labour is desperately clinging to power and will deploy the state where necessary in an arbitrary and provocative fashion. The defence of human rights in Britain is inseparable from a campaign to fashion a real political democracy in place of the authoritarian, surveilance state that is oppressing Hicham and countless others.
AWTW communications editor
To support Hicham’s right to stay in Britain, you can contact the campaign on 07948590262 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.