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Hich Stich Up

You’ll remember the case of Hicham Yezza, an Algerian student and ultimately employee of the University of Nottingham, who has lived in this country for 13 years.

Earlier this year Hich was arrested. The reason for his arrest, it transpired, was that he had received by email a heavily redacted Al Qaeda training manual, that another student had downloaded from the US Department of Justice website, in connection with a genuine and legitimate postgraduate research project. As an employee, Yezza got free printing, and his mate was trying to avoid shelling out for printer credits. A terrible crime, I’m sure you’ll agree.

No charges were brought in relation to the Al Qaeda training manual.

However, the Home Office took the opportunity to try to deport Hich. The strategy they followed is one familiar to immigration lawyers: charge the prospective deportee with a range of immigration offences, and then offer to drop them “if you agree to go quietly”.

Hich did not agree to go quietly. Instead, he challenged the Home Office, and prepared for for judicial review proceedings. The Home Office responded by agreeing not to deport Hich until the trial on the immigration offences had taken place.

Over the last few months, a number of the immigration offences have been dropped by the CPS. The judge at one hearing expressed doubts that it was in the public interest to continue with the case. So things have been looking good for Hich.

Then, last month, everything changed. Unity summarises the position well at Liberal Conspiracy

At the end of November, the Home Office suddenly changed its position, welched on the agreement to lay off immigration proceedings until after the criminal trial, and scheduled a new immigration hearing for January 8 2009.

Why they performed this rapid about face is, obviously, a matter on which they haven’t commented but given the circumstances of the case the obvious inference is that their efforts to build a criminal case against Hich have fallen flat and they’re now desperately trying to cover their collective arses by shunting him out of country before they’re forced to admit to their failure by either dropping the remaining charges or having their case thrown out by a court for lack of evidence.

The timing of this hearing is, similarly, illuminating – Parliament is currently in recess and remains so until 19 January, effectively precluding any awkward interventions by his MP, Alan Simpson, or other supportive parliamentarians.

I agree.

Immigration procedures should be open and transparent. The Home Office agreed to stay the deportation until the criminal proceedings have come to an end. It should be held to that undertaking.

The attempt to shuffle Hicham Yezza out of the country while everybody is on holiday or recovering from Xmas hangovers is a shabby disgrace.

We’ll be following this story.