The case of Hicham Yezza and Rizwaan Sabir of Nottingham University is a clear example of why the powers to detain people without charge under the Terrorism Act should not be extended to 42 days; in fact, the time should be reduced. The Government says that the new powers will only be used in exceptional cases; but the situation for Hicham and Rizwaan was not exceptional. They were going about their normal daily work of study and research at the university, doing nothing illegal, when suddenly they were incarcerated without the chance to explain themselves and held without charge for six days. For Hicham Yezza the situation was then complicated by confusion over his immigration status which has resulted in his further detention at immigration holding centres, with a threat of immediate deportation within a week; a threat only stayed by the intervention of lawyers who have obtained for him the right to a proper hearing.
Hicham is a respected member of the University and local community; holds a doctorate from the University and is currently an employee there; he has lived, studied and worked in Britain for 13 years and has a settled personal and social life in Nottingham. You can’t help thinking his only “crime” was to be a Muslim and a foreign-born.
The new laws and powers, and their ongoing extension, are creating a culture of fear and suspicion in our country. The right to liberty, to be free from arbitary arrest by the authorities, to be considered innocent until proven guilty – all of these ancient rights which we have taken for granted are part of what makes ours a civilised and democratic country – and which our grandparents’ generation defended with their lives in the Second World War, are being swept away by a government in a state of moral panic.
How can we believe the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary when they tell us these additional powers are necessary? This is the same government that told us the bombardment and invasion of Iraq was necessary because of the weapons of mass destruction which we were assured remained a clear and present danger.