Arrested students 'should be allowed to study'

June 4, 2009

Academics are urging Liverpool Hope and Liverpool John Moores universities to provide study materials to four students who were arrested on terrorism charges.

The four Pakistani students were arrested in April along with six other Pakistani men also on student visas.

They were all released from police custody in May, but immediately served with deportation orders.

The men are all said to be appealing to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which hears appeals against decisions to deport on national security grounds.

A bail application was refused on 13 May and their next hearing will be on July.

A letter to the two Liverpool universities, signed by 25 academics, says: "These students came to the UK to better themselves educationally ... We therefore call upon your institution to provide them with study material during the period of their incarceration ... We urge you to liaise with the prison authorities to permit your students access to their course materials and make arrangements for them to be able to sit for their exams."

One of the signatories, Jawed Siddiqi, professor of software engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, said he was "shocked at the level of secrecy surrounding SIAC".

"The students' lawyers do not have access to the intelligence the authorities hold on them. This is not natural justice," he said.

Eight of the men are reported to have been enrolled at a bogus college, the Manchester College of Professional Studies, but Professor Siddiqi said: "If they were conned by a bogus college, they should be treated as victims."

Amrit Wilson, a representative of a campaign that is fighting on behalf of the students, told a fringe meeting at the University and College Union congress that some of the students had been arrested after they were overheard discussing "something suspicious".

"They were talking about a wedding," he said.

Pakistan's The Nation newspaper has reported that the students may claim asylum in the UK.

The paper said the UK had failed to secure "concessions" for the students after talks with Pakistan, which could trigger asylum rights. The UK had asked Pakistan to sign a joint "memorandum of understanding" on the students' fate if they were deported, the paper said.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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