‘Draconian’ Home Office fast-tracks Algerian’s deportation

‘Draconian’ Home Office fast-tracks Algerian’s deportation

By Richard Osley, The Independent, Sunday, 25 May 2008

The Home Office was accused last night of rushing to deport a university administrator to conceal official blunders after he was arrested on terrorism charges only to be released without charge. A Labour MP criticised the decision, claiming there was no reason for it « other than to cover the embarrassment of the police and intelligence services ».

Hicham Yezza, 30, was arrested last week after he downloaded an al-Qa’ida training manual at the University of Nottingham. He was detained and questioned for six days with a second man, Rizwaan Sabir, a student.

Both men were released on Friday after it emerged that Mr Yezza had printed the document, which was downloaded from a US government website where it was freely available, at Mr Sabir’s request. The university confirmed the document was being used for legitimate research purposes by Mr Sabir for his master’s degree.

Upon release, Mr Yezza was immediately rearrested, served with a deportation order and taken to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. Mr Yezza, who comes from Algeria, had applied for leave to remain in the UK, where he has lived for the past 13 years. A hearing to decide his application was originally scheduled for July.

The Algerian’s case has now been brought forward and if a frantic appeal fails he could be deported as early as Tuesday. Speaking from the deportation centre last night, Mr Yezza said immigration officials had « operated with a Gestapo mentality ».

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said he had written to the Immigration minister, Liam Byrne, to protest. A « shocked » Mr 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.

« Mr Yezza and his solicitors should be allowed far more than the bank holiday to make the case for his continued presence in the UK. To race him out of the country will provoke widespread protests against arbitrary deportation with no right to a proper hearing. »

Speaking after his release, Mr Sabir, 22, whose family home was searched and computer scanned, said he was left « absolutely broken » by the experience.

Mr Yezza, known as « Hich », is described as a « popular face » on the campus. He contributed to debating societies, theatre groups and the Student Peace Movement magazine. Supporters said he would face groundless charges if he returned to Algeria.

In a statement last night, Mr Yezza said: « 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 – their recklessness and cavalier approach belongs to a cavalier state. »

He praised the support he had received, saying it reflected « the spirit of the generous, inclusive Britain we know – and not the faceless, brutal, draconian tactics of the Home Office ».

A spokesman for the Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.