Documents and photographs suggesting that the University of Nottingham has monitored students through covert filming have been leaked to the website Unileaks by supporters of the suspended lecturer Dr. Rod Thornton.
In May of this year, Dr. Thornton was suspended from the University after he published an article that criticised the University’s handling of a situation in 2008, when a student and a member of staff were arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences. The student, Rizwaan Sabir, had downloaded documents on Al Qaeda as part of his academic research at the University, and passed them onto Hicham Yezza, an employee at the University, who was giving him advice on his PhD application. When the documents were discovered, the University alerted authorities and Sabir and Yezza were detained for 6 days before being released without charge. Dr Thornton’s whistle-blowing paper, ‘How a student’s use of a library book became a major Islamist plot’, claimed that high ranking university figures made serious errors in their treatment of Sabir and Yezza.
Dr Thornton’s supporters, a group called ‘Support the Whistleblowers at Nottingham’ (SWAN), have published 200 items on the Unileaks website. The website, which was inspired by the better known Wikileaks site, says its aim is to “keep education honest” and describes itself as “a place to post information on public interest matters relating to higher education”.
The documents on Unileaks were revealed just four days after the Government released their revised ‘Prevent strategy’, which “seeks to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”.
SWAN believes that their evidence supports Dr Thornton’s assertion that Sabir’s reputation was tarnished by irresponsible senior figures at the University. They maintain that the ‘terrorist material’ obtained by him could be easily accessed in the library or in Waterstones and Amazon online.
More controversial are the leaked photographs that suggest student protesters were secretly being filmed by security, a method of surveillance that the University says students are aware of. SWAN’s student operation spokesman, Sam Walton, said “These leaks show how everything can and does go wrong when a brand-conscious University is left to deal with security issues such as terrorism”.