Academics from the University of Nottingham will be doing a public reading of the research material that led to arrests under the Terrorism Act on campus last week, outside the Hallward library, University Park Campus, 2:00pm, 28/05/08. The reading will be followed by a silent protest where students and academics will symbolically gag themselves to object to the attack on academic freedom.
A student and member of staff were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Wednesday 14th May, after university authorities contacted the police. They were released without charge (1) six days later, after an intrusive investigation (2) involving their families, friends and political affiliations was carried out. The arrests were in relation to ‘radical material’, which the individuals were in possession of for research purposes (3). According to one academic, the police said the event never would have occurred if the persons involved had been: “Blonde, Swedish PhD students.”
Vanessa Pupavac, a lecturer in the school of Politics and International Relations says, “We are greatly concerned by the disproportionate nature of the university’s response to the possession of legitimate research materials. Both the individuals are unreservedly innocent and they and their families and friends and have been greatly distressed by the overzealous police investigation. It is crucial that we do not let concerns for security become the enemy of liberty and academic freedom.”
A petition (4) is currently being signed by hundreds of students and academics worldwide, asking the University of Nottingham to guarantee academic freedom on campus for all staff and students regardless of their ethnic background or political views.
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Notes for editors:
(1) One of the individuals is yet to be freed as he was immediately re-arrested on immigration grounds.
(2) Police cars rushed onto campus at high speed in the middle of the exam period. Eyewitnesses have reported hearing loud sirens. Several security and police vehicles, including a scientific support team, parked outside the main Trent building in the middle of campus. Students passing by had their bags searched at random. The homes of the arrestees’ friends and family were thoroughly searched.
(3) This material is widely available on the Internet, including on official U.S. Government sites that are commonly used for reading lists in the School of Politics and International Relations.
(4) Petition text:
Protect Academic Freedom
On Wednesday 14th May 2008 two innocent members of the university community were arrested by police, under the Terrorism Act 2000. The arrests were in relation to alleged ‘radical material’, which the individuals were in possession of for research purposes. This material is widely available on the Internet, including on official US Government sites, which are used for reading lists in the School of Politics. It has become clear from statements made by the police and university that the arrests took place after university authorities contacted the police. There is widespread concern that the two individuals were targeted for investigation at least in part because of their ethnic backgrounds. The two were held for six days without charge whilst an intrusive investigation involving their families, friends and political affiliations was carried out. They were released without charge on Tuesday 20th May 2008. One was immediately re-arrested on immigration grounds.
We, the undersigned, believe that this incident constitutes a serious violation of academic freedom, and sets a worrying precedent.
We, the undersigned, demand that the University of Nottingham:
a) Acknowledges the unreserved innocence of the student and staff member in question
b) Apologises for the great distress caused to them, their families, and their friends
c) Acknowledges the disproportionate nature of the university’s response to the possession of legitimate research materials
d) Guarantees academic freedom on campus for all staff and students regardless of their ethnic background or political views
e) Takes steps to ensure freedom of speech and freedom of expression on campus