Hicham Yezza was today found guilty of lying to immigration officials about his right to stay in the country.

Yezza, 30, told officials he had “lost” his passport which he claimed had been stamped, giving him rights to remain in the UK. When police searched his house last May, however, the passport was found among a collection of other documents, and had no such stamp.

Hicham Yezza was first alerted to authorities when he applied for a provisional driving licence in 2007, as the DVLA noticed his passport had no stamps in it and informed the immigration service. Yezza told immigration officer Thomas Hartwell that his passport had been stolen in March 2006, and that he had been sent a new passport – explaining the lack of stamps.

Prosecutor Joe Spicer said: “When the passport was examined it became clear that what he [Hicham Yezza] told Mr. Hartwell in interview was a lie…Not only had the passport not been stolen but it was clear there was no stamp in his passport allowing him to stay.”

Hicham Yezza said he was “shocked” to find his old passport, which he thought was stolen.

After a two-day trial at Northampton Crown Court, a jury of seven men and four women today took less than half-an-hour to convict Yezza of securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means.

The current trial comes after Hicham Yezza’s arrest and subsequent release without charge for terrorism offences last year. Although no evidence whatsoever was found linking Yezza to terrorist activities, his passport – with no visa stamp beyond 2003 – was found during investigations.

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27 Comments

  1. Charlie
    February 13, 2009 at 00:02 — Reply

    What a lying little s***!

  2. Dave
    February 13, 2009 at 11:42 — Reply

    The truth will come out !
    What else has he lied about – can he ever be trusted

  3. greg
    February 13, 2009 at 19:30 — Reply

    Send the bugger back!

  4. John
    February 14, 2009 at 05:59 — Reply

    That will teach all the liberal dogooding wankers who stood around in Portland everyday for some foreign scumbag. Ohhhh Free Hich, get on with life and stop thinking that everything is unfair, send the bastard back.

  5. Emi
    February 15, 2009 at 21:11 — Reply

    Obviously, none of the above people who have commented have met or spoke to Hitcham Yezza. He is an incredible man and an asset to our country, which is why so many people protested before. I am sure many, like myself, will be deeply saddened at the fact that our immigration laws are so bloody strict that they will try and deport someone because they don’t have a bit of ink on paper allowing them to be here. Peolpe generalise ruthlessly, irregardless of circumstance and following the Daily Mail indoctrination that ‘all imigrants are evil’. Grow up. Meet Hitch and then try calling him a foreign scumbag.

  6. greg
    February 15, 2009 at 23:37 — Reply

    Oh dear.
    You should really be deeply saddened that you believed this liar! I hope for your sake you didn’t donate any money or anything…

  7. Luke Place
    February 16, 2009 at 00:23 — Reply

    “That will teach all the liberal dogooding wankers who stood around in Portland everyday for some foreign scumbag. Ohhhh Free Hich, get on with life and stop thinking that everything is unfair, send the bastard back.”

    Even though Mr Yezza was found guilty, it concerns me that the above is the opinion of somebody who will probably one day be called up for jury service. People seem happy to ignore the fact that Mr Yezza was arrested for a crime related to terrorism that he didn’t commit.

    This is the injustice that people were concerned about I believe, I doubt many people were aware of this situation, which was only brought to the attention of the police as the result of a search of his home that ought never to have been carried out in the first place.

    “I am sure many, like myself, will be deeply saddened at the fact that our immigration laws are so bloody strict that they will try and deport someone because they don’t have a bit of ink on paper allowing them to be here.”

    It’s more than a bit of ink though surely? If the story is to be believed he deliberately lied to people responsible for granting him the right to live here. It disappoints me that your defence of Mr Yezza is based on how nice he is, rather than more legitimate grounds such as questions regarding why Mr Yezza felt the need to lie.

  8. Vanessa Anne Esi Brown
    February 17, 2009 at 03:40 — Reply

    It’s kinda obvious why he lied…he didn’t want to be deported! Not defending him just making an obvious point.
    It must be frustrating for working immigrants to have to return to a country where there is perhaps little work or poor living conditions when they have been working (and paying taxes) in a “nice” place like the UK.

  9. Jon
    February 17, 2009 at 11:28 — Reply

    As someone who’s known Hich fairly well for a number of years, and who’s contributed substantially (in financial terms) to his legal fund, I’m personally sad to hear of this verdict. However, in terms of more general issues of due process and fairness, I’m satisfied that the verdict was arrived at in a proper and acceptable manner.

    What originally concerned me about this case, when it first broke last year, was a sense that Hicham was being treated in an *exceptional* manner, that he was not being treated fairly, and not allowed the ‘due process’ that anyone else in his situation (accused of a particular crime) would be allowed. It looked like, and I think temporarily was the case, that the Home Office, in an attempt to ‘save face’ after a completely ill-advised and ‘unsuccessful’ counter-terrorist operation, had started to take the law into their own hands (by attempting a fast-track deportation of Hicham without allowing legal recourse), when instead their role should be to apply the law as it presently stands.

    By cancelling the emergency deportation order, and allowing Hicham the opportunity to argue his case in court, my main concern about the case was mostly alleviated. Hicham was being treated fairly, in an unexceptional manner, like anyone else in his situation.

    Being concerned with fairness, and with the unexceptional treatment of individuals in the eyes of the Law, cuts both ways. Just as I did not want to see the Home Office treating Hicham exceptionally harshly, so I cannot really support those who seem believe that, either by force of personality or the perculiar circumstances surrounding this case, he should be treated exceptionally leniently.

  10. Dave
    February 18, 2009 at 13:26 — Reply

    Hey All , the law is the law and he has been found GUILTY of an immigration offence by due justicve and he should be sent back.

  11. Charlie Francis
    February 23, 2009 at 16:36 — Reply

    “This is the injustice that people were concerned about I believe, I doubt many people were aware of this situation, which was only brought to the attention of the police as the result of a search of his home that ought never to have been carried out in the first place.”

    That’s all well and good, but the fact is, he still has been committing a crime and how the police found out about that is irrelevant. I believe his initial detainment was unfair and will support him on this, but the fact that he lied to police is just inexcusable, and it feels like a bit of a spit to the face of hundreds of students here who supported him through this, both financially and otherwise.

  12. Peter Davis
    February 25, 2009 at 11:40 — Reply

    He didn’t lie to police and his charge had no relation to his immigration status, which both prosecution and defense agreed was sound. It is about “securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means”, which is a different offense from “being in the country illegally” and relates being ‘deceptive’ to immigration officials not the police.

    Please watch the website of the campaign for a legal update, but for now I copy a post from Peter Tatchell’s excellent Comment Is Free piece on the events, which he sees through the situation, which details the bits both defense and prosecution agreed on (ie what is uncontroversial without argument) – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/feb/23/hicham-yezza

    “As someone who’s been reporting on the trial and who attended the proceedings, I feel compelled to comment on the evening post piece mentioned earlier. To say the piece gives a very slanted picture of the facts is the least of it.

    A few points the readers ought to be aware of. These are points both the prosecution and defence have agreed upon.

    – The passport: the address where the passport was found was supplied willingly by Mr Yezza himself. There was agreement from all parties that no effort to conceal or hide it was made.

    – DVLA: An immigration witness confirmed Mr Yezza’s actions and behaviour were completely at odds with the actions of people trying to stay “off the immigration radar”, for instance, he sent his passport to the DVLA in full knowledge that his passport would be checked by the Home Office.

    – A witness confirmed that Mr Yezza found the passport in their presence when unpacking boxes of books at his University office. The prosecution did not challenge this account, which clearly confirms Mr Yezza genuinely believed he had lost his passport.

    – It was agreed by all parties that a deceitful person would have destroyed the passport rather than keep it where it could be found and even supply the address of where it was.

    – Mr Yezza, both the defence and prosecution agreed, had all the necessary paperwork to be here legally in the UK. The Home Office agreed that he has been legally in the country for at least 8 years AND that he was entitled to stay for at least a further 2/3 years — thus giving him an automatic right to claim permanent residence.”

    Shame on Impact Magazine for publishing a copy and paste from the Evening Post when they know someone who was actually at the court, even if they were on Hicham’s side, might have been able to give a more rounded account of proceedings there, what the charge was, and what the arguments made from both sides were. Is this really the standard of journalism from a university of this calibre? Copy and paste from another newspaper? Allow comments that are blatently racist?

  13. Student
    February 26, 2009 at 19:32 — Reply

    I can not believe that Impact “Best Student Magazine” has simply cut and pasted an inaccurate, racist, article from a local newspaper without doing any of its own research. Truly shocking!! I saw that Guardian piece and I thought the comments on it cleared the whole thing up – you would never the truth judging by this article!

  14. Vanessa Anne Esi Brown
    February 27, 2009 at 08:06 — Reply

    Thanks Peter. It seems that there isn’t very many people at this University who value concrete facts (or at least balanced opinions) and would rather just believe slanderous reporting. As this allow them to stay firmy withing their prejudiced comfort zones.

  15. Dave
    March 4, 2009 at 12:59 — Reply

    The facts remain Mr Yezza has broken the law – and been found guilty by a jury – perhaps the best legal system in the world.

    If Mr Yezza wanted to stay legally in the UK why did he not obtain the correct papers or authorisation then all this would have been avoided

    He should be sent home.

  16. Alex
    March 5, 2009 at 15:29 — Reply

    Dave,

    You don’t actually understand the case at all. The charge Yezza faced had nothing to do with whether or not he had the correct papers to remain in the UK – both prosecution and defense agreed he did (and does). It has nothing to do with his immigration status and nothing to do with having the correct papers or not. It was whether or not he “secured avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means”, which related to the passport and if or if not he was deceptive. I think Peter above has a pretty clear understanding of what went down, so maybe you should read what he said.

  17. Luke Place
    March 7, 2009 at 18:56 — Reply

    “That’s all well and good, but the fact is, he still has been committing a crime and how the police found out about that is irrelevant.”

    So if police raided your house because somebody had sent you a perfectly legal academic document, you’d be happy for them to convict you or anyone within the house as a result of illegal items they stumbled upon during their search?

  18. dave
    March 9, 2009 at 20:14 — Reply

    To Luke – you said it ” illegal items”.

    My case rests as they say. Yezza was guilty and should be removed from the UK

  19. March 10, 2009 at 18:15 — Reply

    @ Peter Davis:

    I’m not sure who originally posted this story, but I’ve just come across it now, not having read any of the comments.

    The reason the Nottingham Evening Post story was the one used as a source for this piece (indeed, copied and pasted in large part it seems) is that local papers have court reporters, and they are the primary source most national media appear to have gone by. There is no reason to expect bias for or against Hicham as far as I know, and I cannot detect any particularly obviously antagonistic statements (except for the opening sentence, which appears to have been edited to be more provocative – I shall deal with this now). I have myself heard from other sources who were present on the day of sentencing that the NEP article was factually accurate, but you appear to cast doubt on this – specifically, I was under the impression that the focus of the trial was whether Hicham knew he didn’t have a legitimate legal right to stay in the country and whether, if he did, did he deliberately mislead the immigration officers in 2007. Not, as you appear to be saying, that he *did* have such legal right, but he had lied about the specific details in applying for permanent residence. I’m not sure that your terminology is accurate – I think you mean to say that he *could* have been here legally, had he applied for the right (as his defense’s closing statement says here: http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/news/University-worker-Yezza-jailed-months/article-752889-detail/article.html), but he appears to have forgotten to fill out the right forms or whatever (through no sinister intention). So he didn’t, technically, have the legal right to stay in the country. That is why deportation is on the cards. Is that what you’re getting at?

    Unfortunately we are just a small student magazine, and as much as we might not want to admit it we are rather at the mercy of the corporate media to do the majority of the primary reporting. If you can provide another source that was present on the day then I’d be happy to amend the article, but I’m not convinced that it contains errors that amount to deliberate distortion in any real way.

    @ Accusations of Racism:

    That is a serious charge, and I have no idea what the hell it’s based on. There is no reference to Hicham’s race in the article, directly or indirectly (unless you count a reference to a nationality as equivalent to a race, which is simply false), and as for the comments posted so far – they may be the thoughts and words of vindictive, spiteful, angry and bitter misanthropes who don’t fully understand the big words in their textbooks, but regardless they are clearly not racial in their negative intent.

  20. S
    March 17, 2009 at 01:33 — Reply

    Doesn’t it strike anybody as odd that Hitch is the kind of immigrant every country wants and needs yet they are so desperately trying to get rid of him.

    Also, I find it rather shocking that “lying” (it does seem to me more like an honest mistake but that’s just a personal opinion) can get you nine months in this country whilst man slaughtering your girl friend’s son will get you five years but you’ll be out in two.

  21. J.K.
    March 23, 2009 at 20:45 — Reply

    Such a lazy excuse for student journalism. Nottingham Evening Post is basically the local version of the Daily Mail; you can’t rely upon them to cover immigration issues fairly. They’ve been following Hich’s case from the start, but still used the headline ‘Algerian found guilty of lying to immigration officials’. That speaks volumes in terms of how the NEP panders to local bigots. If you take a look at the comments on thisisnottingham.co.uk, you’ll see what I mean. And that’s the corporate media for you: they sensationalise things, wind people up and measure the success of their articles by the number of hits they get online. But Impact doesn’t have to operate that way, does it? Local student stories don’t get much more high-profile than this – you should have made more of an effort in your reportage.

  22. March 25, 2009 at 17:34 — Reply

    @J.K.

    I have to to take issue with your post, I’m afraid.

    “Nottingham Evening Post is basically the local version of the Daily Mail; you can’t rely upon them to cover immigration issues fairly. ”

    There are several reasons why I think this is a pretty meaningless point to bring up (and use to criticise our article):

    1) Your evidence for their bias, namely:

    “They’ve been following Hich’s case from the start, but still used the headline ‘Algerian found guilty of lying to immigration officials’. That speaks volumes in terms of how the NEP panders to local bigots.”

    …and it’s also inarguably factually correct. I really think it’s stretching beyond rationality any interpretation of the description of Hicham as ‘Algerian’ to make it sound inherently or otherwise racist/xenophobic (and to do so says more about your prejudices towards the NEP than the word itself used in a pretty harmless context). Consider our headline – we merely replace the national descriptor with his name, as we know that the issue is well-known amongst students. However, amongst the population of Nottingham, Hicham’s plight doesn’t exactly constitute dinner-table chatter, as much as the campaign may have seemed inescapable on campus.

    So a headline, like the one they used, allows them to summarise the key case facts for those unaware in one sentence. There are no weasel words that I can see; the tone never comes across as deliberately negative towards Hicham as a person beyond what he was sentenced for.

    “If you take a look at the comments on thisisnottingham.co.uk, you’ll see what I mean.”

    I have seen those comments, and they’re frightening. But you’re assuming that the newspaper endorses the views of those who post comments on its site, which of course isn’t necessarily true. Which leads me to…

    2) Your ad hominem attack upon the story here. As our main source is one whom you have disagreed with in the past, your dislike of the article seems to stem from your dislike of the NEP, and not the actual article itself. Their previous coverage that you disagree with does not discount any time that they do state pure fact.

    I’ve pointed out that the article, by NEP standards even, is extremely bare on anything but the facts of the sentencing. There have been accusations that the NEP is reporting Hicham’s case negatively, but frankly we’re only using them for this single story which takes its references directly from the courtroom events and the statements from prosecution and defense teams. We haven’t used any of their other coverage.

    There have been repeated calls for some kind of fairer picture of the trial to be given, but these seem to me to be calls for nothing more than the character of Hicham to be described – and unless the law has changed, it’s evidence and not circumstantial rumour and hearsay that a person is judged on in this country.

    3) Your critique of the ‘corporate media’ – I don’t even want to have to begin to talk about this, because frankly I can’t be having with opening that particular can of Chomskian worms.

    But let me say this – firstly, that just because a source has a selfish incentive it does not follow that their actions will only resuly in selfish gains, and as such just because a newspaper chases the money it doesn’t mean that that is incompatible with factual accuracy (and to think otherwise is grossly paranoid). Secondly, the Hicham case was so surprising in its outcome (according to campaign sources, who were biased, of course) that I imagine that no dressing-up needs to be done for us. We can report what happened in the court and know that we don’t need to knowingly exagerate or elaborate for the purposes of meaningly ‘hits’.

    If something else happened that we haven’t described, tell us – but nothing more has been reported in any other media that we can find, and nobody has pointed out what is explicity incorrect in the story given here despite accusations to the contrary. As far as I can see it’s purely that people seem to take a neutral tone to be negative towards their position, as if there are only two sides to these kinds of issues.

    Let me clear here – Hich is a friend of mine, and it makes me sick to my stomach what’s happened to him. And we’ve done stories on this in Impact before, which were pretty damn sympathetic and went beyond the kind of ‘balance’ we usually try to bring to the magazine simply because of the inherent in-house sympathy we have.

    But this is a *news* story. Thus only the facts from the trial are reported. Opinion comes into the later parts of the magazine, in features. Of course, you’d be right to point out that the idea of a purely neutral perspective on the facts is somewhat a kind of abstract impossibility – but, damn it, at least we can try.

  23. Fact Off
    March 30, 2009 at 17:42 — Reply

    Look at some of the uninformed xenophobic comments that the report has inspired. It is clearly biased, not telling the whole situation, and fuelling racism.

    This is quite a telling comment taken from the Tatchell article from someone known as Dr Cleveland:

    ” As someone who’s been reporting on the trial and who attended the proceedings, I feel compelled to comment on the evening post piece mentioned earlier. To say the piece gives a very slanted picture of the facts is the least of it.

    A few points the readers ought to be aware of. These are points both the prosecution and defence have agreed upon.

    – The passport: the address where the passport was found was supplied willingly by Mr Yezza himself. There was agreement from all parties that no effort to conceal or hide it was made.

    – DVLA: An immigration witness confirmed Mr Yezza’s actions and behaviour were completely at odds with the actions of people trying to stay “off the immigration radar”, for instance, he sent his passport to the DVLA in full knowledge that his passport would be checked by the Home Office.

    – A witness confirmed that Mr Yezza found the passport in their presence when unpacking boxes of books at his University office. The prosecution did not challenge this account, which clearly confirms Mr Yezza genuinely believed he had lost his passport.

    – It was agreed by all parties that a deceitful person would have destroyed the passport rather than keep it where it could be found and even supply the address of where it was.

    – Mr Yezza, both the defence and prosecution agreed, had all the necessary paperwork to be here legally in the UK. The Home Office agreed that he has been legally in the country for at least 8 years AND that he was entitled to stay for at least a further 2/3 years — thus giving him an automatic right to claim permanent residence.

    I was very surprised by the coverage of the Evening Post and that of Nottingham University as it completely ignored the points raised by the defence and seemed to consist entirely and lopsidedly of the prosecution’s position.

    I personally was extremely taken aback by the verdict which was unexpected in the light of the evidence presented. Obviously, I’m no legal expert and can’t really comment on the judge or jury’s choices as such but I think the real picture is far from the black and white account that I saw circulated in the press so far and which was taken up (in good faith I’m sure) by people who have posted.”

    Perhaps some of this information could have been presented to allow for a more balanced view of the situation?

  24. Jack
    May 9, 2009 at 12:08 — Reply

    Perhaps, “Fact Off”, you could read the post preceding yours, in which the editor has already answered all of your concerns with creditable patience and depth. Perhaps you could even have read it before you posted, but never mind.

    In a more general comment, I am sorry to hear about the verdict, though I agree completely with Jon’s comments earlier that you cannot shout for the law to be respected one month when your man is being fucked over, and then shout that the law should not be respected the next when your man has fucked up. Whether or not the charges were politically motivated, the letter of the law was followed. However, I am pretty much outraged by the sentence handed down; a lot of dangerous and violent offenders get less than nine months in prison for far more serious crimes. Personally, I am someone who believes that first-time non-violent offenders should never go to prison, but even if I were a hardliner on criminal justice I would find the inequity of Yezza’s sentence appalling.

    Lastly I would like to condemn Impact magazine as nothing more than a Fascist/Corporate/Liberal/Communist/Pathetic Student/Frivolous Lapdog of The Man, and I stress that if efforts are not made to write exactly what I think about everything from now on then I am coming to get you Ian Steadman.

  25. Luke Place
    May 11, 2009 at 14:27 — Reply

    Contrast:

    “When the passport was examined it became clear that what he [Hicham Yezza] told Mr. Hartwell in interview was a lie…Not only had the passport not been stolen but it was clear there was no stamp in his passport allowing him to stay.”

    With:

    “- The passport: the address where the passport was found was supplied willingly by Mr Yezza himself. There was agreement from all parties that no effort to conceal or hide it was made.

    – DVLA: An immigration witness confirmed Mr Yezza’s actions and behaviour were completely at odds with the actions of people trying to stay “off the immigration radar”, for instance, he sent his passport to the DVLA in full knowledge that his passport would be checked by the Home Office.

    – A witness confirmed that Mr Yezza found the passport in their presence when unpacking boxes of books at his University office. The prosecution did not challenge this account, which clearly confirms Mr Yezza genuinely believed he had lost his passport.

    – It was agreed by all parties that a deceitful person would have destroyed the passport rather than keep it where it could be found and even supply the address of where it was.”

    I’d suggest that now a fuller picture of the information is available, a more balanced story is possible, if not an obligation.

  26. Boudjelti
    June 13, 2009 at 09:37 — Reply

    dave says:
    Monday 9th March 2009 at 8:14 pm
    To Luke – you said it ” illegal items”.

    My case rests as they say. Yezza was guilty and should be removed from the UK

    Dave I think you should be removed from UK, I really don’t know where your origins are, and please don’t try to fake and show us documents that prove your grand pa was born in Trafalgar square. Our country has invested years and millions of pounds in order to insert and maintain equal opportunities program, show me one european country that has a better system than ours, in london there are 80 ethnic groups living together in harmony regardless their origins, our path is clear we have choosed for it and we are not going to make any exceptions Hich has to be treated fairly.

  27. Dave J
    June 15, 2009 at 19:16 — Reply

    Well, there’s treating somebody ‘fairly’, and then there is tolerating somebody lying to immigration officials about their right to stay in the country.

    People keep trying to drag the terrorism thing into it, but unless i’ve misread this issue I don’t see how it’s relevant? He lied about his passport and is thus illegally in this country. Maybe i haven’t followed the issue enough to be stood outside Portland ritually chanting his name, but that sounds fairly cut and dried to me.

    ‘Fairness’ isn’t a one way street, is it?

    (And just to clarify, I’m not the ‘Dave’ who has also commented on here, i’m a completely different ‘Dave’!)

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