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Prevention and the cure

Seven years ago, two members of a university were arrested on suspicion of terrorism and held for a week before being released without charge. What might be the risks now? asks Rachel Hall.

In May 2008 an administrator at the University of Nottingham came to work one morning and was arrested on the spot. An al-Qaeda training manual had been discovered on his computer and he was held on suspicion of terrorism. Over the course of 24 hours, Hicham Yezza had gone from being the university’s literal poster boy, featured in its prospectus, to pariah.

At first glance the story might seem a shining example of the effectiveness of the Prevent strategy, which requires universities to identify students and staff at risk of being drawn into terrorism. But the reality is that Yezza was advising Rizwaan Sabir, a masters student drafting a PhD proposal related to terrorism. That document, drier and more scholarly than the name would suggest, was freely available in the university library, on the website of the US Department of Justice and through online booksellers. According to Yezza, it is a must-read for any scholar of radical Islam.

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