The Story So Far
This website was set up to publicise the campaign to prevent the deportation of Hicham Yezza (Hich to his many friends) and to fight his continuing persecution. Hicham has lived in Nottingham for 13 years, where he studied for his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. He worked at the School of Modern Languages at the University of Nottingham, where he had built up a large network of close friends. He had served as a member of the University of Nottingham Senate for two terms (2004-5) and on the Student’s Union Executive Committee, was President and Co-founder of the Arabic Society, was the editor of the influential Voice magazine for international students, and is the long-time editor of Ceasefire magazine, a political journal. He is a prominent founding member of the ‘Al-Zaytouna’ artistic troupe, and weeks before his arrest performed the leading role in a feature play at the Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Hich was arrested at his office at the University of Nottingham under the Terrrorism Act 2000 on May 14, 2008, along with his friend Rizwaan Sabir, a postgraduate student researching terrorism in the university’s Politics and International Relations department. The reason for the arrests - only revealed after several days - was apparently because Hich possessed on his office computer an open-source, edited version of a document called ‘The Al-Qaeda Training Manual‘, which Rizwaan had downloaded from the U.S. Department of Justice website and passed on to Hich, who was helping him draft his PhD proposal. It was later revealed that a more detailed version of the same document, is available to buy in book form on Amazon.com.
Both men were detained without charge while their homes were searched, their property seized, and their friends and family questioned at length. They were detained for six days without charge (the police had been granted an extension) and with barely any contact with the outside world; Hich enduring almost twenty hours of interrogation in police custody. Both were released without charge on May 20, amidst a storm of publicity over the serious implications of the arrests for civil liberties, in particular for academic freedom.
Not having been charged under the Terrorism Act, Hich was immediately re-arrested minutes after his release for charges under the Immigration Act, in a move that was considered by many (not least Nottingham South MP, Alan Simpson) to be highly political and suspect. Despite Hich’s publicly-declared intention that he was determined to fight the charges in court, and that he was seeking detailed legal advice, an order for a fast-tracked deportation was suddenly issued on May 23 and a deportation flight was scheduled for June 1. The Home Office planned to remove Hich from the U.K. after thirteen years’ of residence less than three weeks after his arrest under the Terrorism Act. Thanks to a huge campaign of protest at this injustice, including the biggest demonstration in the university’s history, a successful legal challenge was mounted and the fast-track deportation was cancelled.
Nonetheless, the Home Office refused to grant Hich temporary release whilst his case was being reconsidered. He subsequently spent a total of three weeks being moved across the country from one Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) to another, in the process spending over twenty-five hours being transported in secured transit vans. During the course of his detention, he endured significant physical as well as emotional pressures from the detention authorities, including a forcible removal from Colnbrook IRC to Dover IRC. On June 16, an application lodged by his legal team to have him released on bail was successful despite strong opposition from the Home Office.
The circumstances of Hich’s initial arrest, as well as his subsequent treatment by the Home Office, sparked widespread protest from students and academics as well as tens of thousands of people worldwide. It has also generated extensive national and international media coverage.
Hicham’s immense contributions to the student, local and national communities are considerable, his deep roots in Nottingham well established and his track record as an activist, artist and intellectual a clear indication that he is an asset to his community and to the country at large. His removal would be a grave injustice and great loss to all.
The Free Hich campaign aims to raise awareness about Hich’s plight and to secure his right to stay in the UK.
We are friends and colleagues of Hicham Yezza, amongst the thousands of Nottingham University students and staff who have expressed our support for his case, have marched together against his deportation and who continue to fight against his persecution.
Some of us have known him for less than ten weeks, others for more than ten years, but we all have come to appreciate him for the kind, gifted, generous and unique individual he is.
His substantial contributions to our student and local community (whether as an activist, an intellectual, an artist or just a great human being) have been immense and deserve to be recognized and acknowledged.
Our aim is to raise awareness of his current plight and to help him fight his case. Our support for Hich is shared by the majority of Nottingham University members and we hope to succeed in ensuring the University of Nottingham authorities reflect this in their actions and public stances.
We have also gained support from tens of thousands of people from around the globe, including academics, artists, politicians, MPs, activists, community leaders and concerned citizens in the UK and beyond.
We urge you to join us and lend Hich your support.
Conact us at firstname.lastname@example.org