Naeem Mohaiemen on Sat, 24 May 2008 10:17:49 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> "Blonde, Swedish PhD students"

From" Dr. Alf Gunvald Nilsen
Dear Friends

I'm writing to call your attention to a recent incident at the
University of Nottingham, where a one of our Graduate Students at the
School of Politics and International Relations and an administrative
member of staff at the Department of Engineering were arrested by
armed police under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Their alleged "crime"
was that the graduate student had downloaded an Al-Qaeda training
manual from a US government website for research purposes, as he's
writing his MA dissertation on Islamic extremism and international
terrorist networks. He had then sent this to his friend in the
Department of Engineering for printing. The printed material had been
spotted by other staff and reported to the University authorities who
passed on the information to the police. The two were then arrested by
armed police on May 14 and held for six days without charge, before
being released without charge on May 20. During the six days they
were imprisoned, the men had their homes raided and their families
harassed by the police. It is worth noticing that in talking to one
of my colleagues, a police officer remarked that the incident would
never have occurred if the persons involved had been "blonde, Swedish
PhD students" (the two men were of British-Pakistani and Algerian
backgrounds respectively).

The incident was recently reported in the Times Higher Education
Supplement online:

Needless to say, this raises hugely important issues both about
academic freedom and civil liberties. Obviously, there is the issue
that for those of us involved in research on contentious issues we
will by necessity have to consult primary materials of a controversial
nature, and the fact that the material is controversial should
not lead to it being deemed as illegitimate research material.
Moreover, we should not under any circumstances have to fear for
infringements upon our civil liberties as a consequence of doing our
jobs. Moreover, it goes without saying that the university should
guarantee the academic freedom, freedom of speech and expression, and
civil liberties of all members of staff and students, irrespective of
ethnic and religious background or political beliefs!

I would be most grateful if you could circulate this e-mail as widely
as possible in the interest of raising awareness and attention about
this incident and the wider issues of academic freedom that it gives
rise to, to as many of your friends and colleagues as possible! I
would of course also be very grateful if any of you would be willing
to write to the University of Nottingham to express your concern about
this issue. If you are willing to do so, please contact me as soon as



Dr. Alf Gunvald Nilsen
RCUK Fellow, Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, School
of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, England, UK

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