A masters student and a staff member at Nottingham University have been arrested (via) under the 2000 Terrorism Act after the student downloaded al-Qaida-related material from a US government website.
Rizwaan Sabir is researching terrorist tactics and, even though his university supervisors have insisted that the material is directly related to his work, he was held for nearly a week and accused of downloading the materials for illegal use.
The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a prevent agenda against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.
Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrators computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabirs family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.
There has been a public outcry against the threatened deportation and university staff and students are planning a march to demonstrate against the attack on academic freedom.