Student protesters carrying copies of Dr. Thornton's report calling for his reinstatement

On 4 May 2011, Dr Rod Thornton (QGM), a former soldier turned academic was suspended from his job as lecturer at the university of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations.

The reason for Dr Thornton’s suspension was because his whistle-blowing research – ‘How a student’s use of a library book became a “major Islamist plot”’ – exposing the complicity of university management and some staff members in the wrongful arrest of a student and a member of staff – Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza – as suspected terrorists in May 2008.Dr Thornton’s report reveals how, subsequent to the wrongful arrests of the Nottingham Two, the university undertook a campaign to discredit and smear them and their supporters, as recorded in the internal documentation most of which was disclosed by the university itself under the Data Protection and the Freedom of Information acts.

Dr Thornton presented his research at the 2011 annual conference of the British International Studies Association (BISA) in Manchester. On the 2nd May, the article was removed from the BISA website after the University of Nottingham claimed the article was defamatory and the BISA believed it would to take them to court. An attack on academic freedom and freedom per se, the suspension of Dr. Thornton is a clear attempt to silence and censor a courageous voice that has raised critical questions.

The paper is extensively referenced and complies with the highest standards of integrity expected of an investigative research paper. Firstly, the burden of proof is on the university, and not, as the university has argued, on Dr Thornton. Secondly, the university must prove how Dr Thornton’s research misrepresents the facts and is defamatory.

Like Dr Thornton, we believe that his research is in line with the University of Nottingham’s own whistle-blowing code of conduct and that, responsibly, Dr Thornton only made the report public after exhausting all possible routes of internal complaint – a route that earned him nothing more than seven employment disciplinaries.

We believe that Dr Thornton’s research provides a compelling case, based on a comprehensive set of evidence, that raises serious questions and should be treated with due-seriousness and further investigation. It simply cannot be ignored.

This is not the time for the university to undertake a reactionary PR campaign, but accept that an assessment of the claims must be made.

We ask that you to read the paper yourself and draw your own conclusions. We are confident that after reading the research, you too will agree that the onus is now on the University of Nottingham to provide a defence for its actions – not on Dr. Thornton.

We call for a independent and statutory public inquiry on the initial arrests, their aftermath and the treatment of Dr Thornton in producing and publishing this report. We encourage others to do the same.

Our aims are:

  1. That the University of Nottingham reinstates Dr. Thornton to his position as lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations with immediate effect
  2. That there is a full, independent and statutory public inquiry into the actions of the University of Nottingham regarding the arrests of the Nottingham Two in 2008, the revelations made in Dr Thornton’s research and the suspension of Dr Thornton after his report had been published, and
  3. That the University of Nottingham fully cooperates with the statutory public inquiry.