A London Metropolitan University professor suspended for his role in the appointment of a man convicted of terrorism has said it is “not credible” that the university’s human resources department did not know about the employee’s past.
The claim came as it emerged that London Met’s director of human resources, Lyn Link, is leaving the university after Easter to take a “career break” after 24 years at the institution. The university said this was “unconnected” to the current controversy.
Jawad Botmeh, research manager at London Met’s Working Lives Research Institute - where he has worked since 2008 - was suspended by the university last month after being elected as staff representative on its board of governors.
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.
The university 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.
In a letter to university governors, Professor Jefferys says he has been suspended for not referring Mr Botmeh’s 2008 application for a three-month secretarial appointment to the deputy vice-chancellor, his then line manager.
He adds that he “had not been informed by the university that anyone who declared a criminal conviction should be referred upwards”.
Mr Botmeh stayed on and applied for an 18-month post in 2010. He “declared his conviction on a form which, this time, procedure meant went to HR”. After a successful interview, the HR department “wrote to him offering him the post”, Professor Jefferys says in the letter, published online.
Shortly afterwards Mr Botmeh was dismissed by the university over a visa mix-up but was quickly re-instated. “Again it is not credible that no one in HR opened his file at this crisis point,” Professor Jefferys says.
“I sincerely do not believe I have done anything wrong,” he concludes.