Friday, May 30, 2008

DOCUMENTS DISCUSSED HERE GET YOU JAILED 2.0: Or set up for deportation

If you download "the al Qaeda manual," never share it, even if you're a scholar-in-training studying terrorism. Especially if you and the recipient go by the wrong kind of names.

In mid-May, University of Nottingham master's student Rizwaan Sabir apparently sent the electronic manual to a school clerk, Hicham Yezza, for printing. This triggered an investigation in which counter-terror police arrested the two and held them for six days, after which Sabir was released without charge. However, Yezza was held on an immigration violation and is in custody, threatened with deportation to Algeria.

Reg readers know now that reading the wrong stuff in the UK gets you on the fast track to prison for one possession of something likely to be of use to potential terrorists. Technically, get-out-of-jail-free cards have been issued for journalists and academics, both of which have a well-defined public interest in writing about and analyzing such documents. However, under the current climate it's inevitable that those with good reasons for possessing jihadi electronic documents will find themselves in anti-terror cross-hairs.

Read the rest of the story at el Reg today here.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has written about two other cases in which UK anti-terror legislation has effectively criminalized the possession of document discussed and illustrated frequently on this side. If you have the wrong name, have them on your hard disk, and the UK police come calling, you have significant legal exposure.

The paradox in this current story is that the student and clerk at Nottingham University obtained the Manchester manual, also known as the "al Qaeda manual" from a US government site.

In the US, the Manchester manual went well beyond its use as an illustration of terror writings in legal cases years ago. It is now used to make political statement on the nature of the enemy, usually taken out of context or selectively edited, for the sake of argument.

"How just thinking about terrorism became illegal" addressed this counter-terror tactic last year, also at the Reg, here. It is one in which anyone who downloads a document deemed likely to be of use to potential terrorists stands at risk, if taken into criminal court, of suffering a sentence which carries with it ten years in prison. In other words, what's on your hard drive could mean hard time.

In the related but more recent case of Samina Malik, the Lyrical Terrorist, DD wrote "Documents discussed here get you jailed.

"Is this what it is going to be like?" asks John Ozimek at the Reg in another piece on the University of Nottingham incident. "When simple possession of a proscribed document will be enough to see you clapped in irons and whisked down to the local police station?"

"About two weeks ago (May 16), Nottingham University campus was agog as police arrived to interview former student Hicham Yezza. After some ten years' study, first as undergraduate, then graduate, Hicham was a non-academic member of staff in one of the University departments.

"His mistake was to agree to help Rizwaan Sabir, a friend in the Politics faculty, who needed a document downloaded from the web and printed off. This was all part of legitimate study: the document itself was on the Politics Faculty reading list. Unfortunately, the document in question also happened to be an al-Qaeda Training Manual..."

Read this entire story here.

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