Author: Notts IMC + Jeremy Bates
Tags: anti-racism islamophobia police repression rizwaan_sabir
Rizwaan Sabir, a former University of Nottingham student who was wrongfully arrested under the Terrorism Act, has now found that police "made up" key evidence against him. An internal report by the West Midlands police also stated that interviews with witnesses in the case were “incorrectly recorded” although no officers will face disciplinary action. Sabir has labelled counter-terror operations as “deeply politicised policing” and says that the new evidence begs the question “how many people have been charged as terrorists on the basis of falsified evidence?”
Previous features: Anger Over "Terror Arrests" at Nottingham University | Hundreds Join Demo for Academic Freedom and Against Deportation | New light shed on the Nottingham Two | Censorship at University of Nottingham | Support grows for Uni of Nottingham whistleblower
In 2008, Rizwaan Sabir, then a student at the University of Nottingham, was wrongfully arrested under the Terrorism Act as a result of his possession of a document he had downloaded for his academic research into terrorism. He was released without charge after 6 days of interrogation and detention and received an out of court settlement of £20,000 from Nottinghamshire police last Autumn.
Whilst Sabir was under arrest, terrorism expert and former University of Nottingham lecturer, Dr Rod Thornton, was interviewed by police about Sabir’s studies but was never asked about the documents themselves. Internal notes from a meeting of the Gold Group of detectives assigned to the case, however, reveal police quoting Thornton as believing the manual was a “tactical document”, a fictitious statement that went on to become key evidence in the case against Sabir.
Now, four years on, an investigation into the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit which carried out the arrest, has concluded that officers "made up" key evidence that was used against Sabir. Dr Thornton’s complaint that the police had misrepresented his evidence was upheld. The report of the standards unit of West Midlands police concludes that officers “made up what he said about the al-Qaida manual”, effectively concluding that they fabricated evidence in the case against Sabir. The report also states that the Gold Group “incorrectly recorded” their conversation with Thornton. However, the standards board says that no officers will be investigated for misconduct. Thornton has referred the matter to the IPCC.
Thornton said: “The police were totally unprofessional. After their mistakes they tried to cover them up. I’ve seen some altered police notes, I’ve seen evidence made up. The whole thing seems to be a complete tissue of lies, starting from the cover up of their mistakes in the first place.”
Sabir said: “I have known that the police lied and deceived in order to justify my arrest and treatment and this has now been proven.”
Regarding the decision not to take further action against the officers involved Sabir stated that “Police are hardly ever willing to take action against their own. The entire struggle with this case, and I’m sure many others, is based on forcing accountability into policing, especially counter-terrorism policing, which is unnecessarily non-transparent”.
He said that “there is no real way for individuals arrested, charged or prosecuted as a terrorist to fight in a legal structure that reinforces the power and authority of the State at every step” and that “the police will paint a profile of a person, sometimes through falsified evidence, to convince a jury that they are guilty of being a terrorist.” “Unless these individuals are able to fight their cases from prison and are able to convince their legal representatives and political campaigners to help them investigate their case, they will most likely never be able to clear their names.”
The whistleblower: Rod Thornton
Much of what is now known about the way the case was handled has been pieced together through Freedom of Information and Data Protection Access requests from the police and the university. Dr Rod Thornton published a highly controversial paper on what he and Sabir had found, entitled Radicalisation at universities or radicalisation by universities? in April last year. The paper, which was extremely critical of the University of Nottingham’s handling of the situation, resulted in the university suspending him from his post a week later. An international campaign for Thornton’s reinstatement ensued, backed by 67 prominent academics including Noam Chomsky, Paul Gilroy and Norman Finkelstein. One hundred students and staff held a march to the University of Nottingham’s Trent Building in support of Dr Thornton.
Thornton left his post at the university earlier this year through mutual agreement.
The latest revelations shed more light on the extent to which a case against the Nottingham Two was manufactured when the evidence did not fit. Thornton’s research revealed prejudiced assumptions from university staff about the Muslim men at the centre of the allegations. Gary Stevens, the university’s Head of Security, referred to their language as “Jihadist-speak”, and had drawn up a list of "protests, film showings, seminars, stalls, “cultural days”, meetings or presentations that related to “Muslim issues”". In June last year, Unileaks released documents revealing that the university had been secretly filming students as a method of monitoring potential extremists. This is the first time that police wrongdoing has been revealed to have played a role in the men’s detention.
When asked whether he thought the police and Home Office are instutionally Islamophobic, Sabir replied that the state’s model of counter-terrorism is based on counter-insurgency warfare and “views Muslims as having an innate potential to support political violence against British & Western interests which is why the police’s actions and responses target the entire Muslim community”. This can include “gathering intelligence on the lawful political and religious views of Muslims, such as myself.” “The point is”, he concludes, “that if an entire community is suspected of potentially becoming terrorists, then the policies and practices of the UK’s policing and security agencies will be based to a large degree on racial/religious profiling”.
Police ‘made up’ evidence against Muslim student – www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jul/14/polic...
Police fabricated evidence against me but civil liberties concern us all – ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/fight-civil-lib...
Interview with Hicham Yezza & Rizwaan Sabir – nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/417