For Hicham Yezza, May 14 is a day he can never forget. It was the day his life and his family’s were shattered because of Britain’s draconian anti-terror laws. “Aspects of my life that would have been seen as commendable in others were suddenly viewed as suspect in my case for no apparent reason other than my religious and ethnic background,” Yezza writes in an article in the Guardian on August 18.
The Algerian-born was arrested on suspicion of “instigating, preparing and commissioning” acts of terrorism. The charges revolve around his possession of a document called “Al-Qaeda Training Manual” which a friend of his downloaded from the internet. “Rizwaan Sabir, a politics student friend of mine (who was also arrested), had downloaded the file from the US Justice Department website while conducting research on terrorism for his upcoming PhD. “An extended version of the same document (which figures on the politics department’s official reading list) was also available on Amazon.” Sabir sent a copy of the document to Yezza, who edits a political magazine, as he usually does with all his research materials.
“I underwent 20 hours of vigorous interrogation while entire days were being completely wasted by the police micro-examining every detail of my life: my political activism, my writings, my work in theatre and dance, my love life, my photography, my cartooning, my magazine subscriptions, my bus tickets.” After six days in custody, Yezza was released without charges. But his life has never become the same. “Lives are shattered, jobs are lost, marriages are destroyed, minds are damaged, friends and families are traumatized – often irrevocably so,” he writes.