The arrests were carried out due to the alleged possession of 'radical material' by a student. The material is widely available on the internet and was directly related to the student's research interests. This could have been discerned with five minute's research. Yet the police decided to launch a full-blown 'terror' operation and put the students, their families and many friends through a colossal amount of stress. Meanwhile, police on campus searched bags and dominated a central area, creating great fear amongst the student community that was totally disproportionate to the apparent ‘threat’ of radical material. The harassment of friends and relatives by the police also raised serious concern. Legal advice is currently being sought.
More dangerously, the whole operation seems to have serious and frightening racial overtones. An officer who investigated the case is reported to have said: "This would never have happened if he had been a white student." The re-arrest of the second student on bogus immigration grounds displays a clear desire on the part of the police to smear the students in the hope of gaining sympathy from the tabloid press.
Furthermore, the university and police rhetoric during this time period was surprising to many students and academics. Amidst the great amount of rhetoric that the university put out during this period, supporting the police and assuming guilt of its own students, it also spoke of groups or individuals who "unsettle the harmony of the campus." This seemed to be a direct reference to the peaceful political activism and vocal, peaceful protest that the university now seems to think it can clamp down on under the Terrorism Act.
Finally, and most importantly, this has constituted a huge and serious attack on academic freedom in the area. Two innocent people, who were well-known and popular amongst the student body, were arrested due to their academic research interests. The arrests seem to have opened the door for the criminalisation of research into radical movements. Furthermore, the indefinite incarceration of two innocent, politically-active and well-known people under the Terrorism Act has created a prevalent climate of fear on campus. Everyone realises that the police can - and WILL - hold students without any evidence or charge for up to 28 days. With an increased police presence on peaceful demonstrations, there is great fear that the police are criminalising peaceful activists using the Terrorism Act.
Concerned students and academics are coming together to decide on the appropriate action to take. The major issue in question is to raise awareness of the number of innocent people being victimised by the current 'terror' legislation.
For more information on the release, please see:
Also see the 'Campaign Against Criminalising Communities' website: http://www.cacc.org.uk/