Botmeh suspension lifted by London Met

A university research manager suspended over his prior conviction for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy has been told he can return to work.

March 13, 2013

Jawad Botmeh, research manager at London Metropolitan University’s Working Lives Research Institute - where he has worked since 2008 - was suspended last month after being elected as staff representative on the university’s board of governors.

The university has now lifted Mr Botmeh’s suspension – meaning he can also take up his place on the board - although it said “other aspects of investigation continue”.

In 1996, the Palestinian was found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions in connection with two car bombings, one outside the Israeli Embassy in London. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but has always maintained his innocence. In 2001, Amnesty International said it was concerned that Mr Botmeh had been “denied [his] right to a fair trial”.

London Met also suspended Max Watson, a research administrator at the WLRI and Unison branch chair, and Steve Jefferys, director of the WLRI, for their parts in Mr Botmeh’s original appointment. But the university has now lifted their suspensions as well, although it said that “investigations are still proceeding”.

Supporters of the men have highlighted the fact Mr Watson and the Unison branch, of which Mr Botmeh is also a member, have been vocal opponents of the university’s outsourcing plans.

Professor Jefferys had written to the university governors insisting that the human resources department was informed of Mr Botmeh’s conviction when he applied for, and was given, a longer-term appointment in 2010.

London Met said last week that its HR director, Lyn Link, is to leave the university after Easter for a “career break”. It said her departure after 24 years at London Met was “unconnected” with the current controversy.

Malcolm Gillies, London Met vice-chancellor, says in a message to staff about the investigation into Mr Botmeh: “I am pleased to say that one part of that investigation is now concluded.

“It was into the trust and confidence that the university, as employer, could have in Jawad Botmeh, as a research manager, and I have ruled that the university can have that trust and confidence. Please welcome him as he returns to work today.”

But Professor Gillies added: “Other aspects of investigation continue.”

The vice-chancellor said in a separate statement on Mr Botmeh’s membership of the board of governors: “Jawad Botmeh is a governor of London Metropolitan University, and entitled to attend all relevant meetings of the board or its committees.”

The next board meeting is on 14 March.

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Reader's comments (4)

This man is a convicted terrorist, found guilty of engaging in violent action. He should never have been appointed by the university and the university should now rectify that mistake.
This was a case where, as I understand it, even Amnesty International considered the conviction unsafe, and questions were raised in the House of Commons. Having said that, the conviction was, anyhow, as I understand it, spent, and Mr Botmeh had been lawfully employed by the university, some years back. His suspension, and those of his two colleagues, is yet another case of unsavoury conduct by an unscrupulous management. These three academics were fortunate in that, due to the publicity and support the case received, the university management were compelled to do the right thing. Sadly, for a number of their colleagues, faced with similar kinds of action, the outcome has not been as happy. Livelihoods have been lost, reputations unjustly smeared and careers destroyed, for no good reason.
Some crimes cannot and should not be forgiven.
Is bullying really okay if you think the victim deserved it? I think we both understand, better than most, what it is to have a reputation unjustly attacked, and the cost - financial, professional, emotional - of having to resort to judicial means in order to put things right. There is some question as to whether Mr B committed the crime of which he was convicted (please look behind the lurid headlines here). But either way, the conviction is irrelevant, as it was spent, and he was lawfully employed, and - to this point - rebuilding his life. Beyond the usual caveats in terms of working with students and young people, can we really differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable spent convictions? Surely fairness and justice should be accessible to all?

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