Friday, February 22, 2013

London Met makes news. But is it the whole story?

 HARDLY had I finished complaining that the media had not given the suspensions at London Met much coverage than the evening TV news finally broke its silence.

"A university researcher has been suspended after it emerged he has a conviction over a car bombing at the Israeli Embassy in London".

London Metropolitan university suspends researcher with car bomb conviction

Not bad only a fortnight after Jawad Botmeh and Max Watson were suspended. But to be fair, if we believe that first sentence - remarkably similar to what appeared in one or two newspapers previously - it only "emerged that" Jawad Botmeh had a criminal conviction five years after he started work at London Met, despite the fact that he and his supporters say he told his employers about it when he applied for the job.

Far more people, myself among them, knew about Jawad Botmeh's conviction, along with Samar Alami, for "conspiracy to cause explosions", than knew where he was working. Many of us considered it was a stitch-up. But London Met, apparently in the minority, only took out his file this year, after he was elected a staff member of the board of governors. And sacked him two weeks later, on February 7, along with his colleague, Unison branch chair Max Watson.

I wonder whether anyone else suspects as I do that there might be an unseen hand behind this?

Meanwhile the third man to be suspended, Professor Steve Jefferys, head of the Working Lives Research Institute has written this letter:

Dear Trade Union Friends,

I'm writing to let you know that I was suspended on Wednesday by Londonmet after a 45 minute investigation into the WLRI because I appointed a former prisoner who had served 13 years imprisonment to a part-time, casual three month maternity cover job in our social justice Institute.

Did I know that his conviction in 1996 was for conspiracy to blow up the Israeli embassy? Yes. I also knew that he had been refused parole for 6 years because he maintained his innocence, and that Paul Foot and Robert Fisk had campaigned for him. And I saw his CV which included his having completed an OU degree in sociology and an MA in Peace and Reconciliation (with merit), as well has having been prisoners' rep on equality issues.

But actually, although this all made him an ideal person to work with us, I felt there was also a basic human rights issues involved. Do we give people a second chance?

The inference involved in my suspension and possible disciplinary action is that either I was involved in some highly sophisticated conspiracy to place a Palestinian terrorist 'sleeper' in a position where he could influence young minds and eventually get elected as staff governor (which five years after Jawad Botmeh started work has now triggered three suspensions), or that I was criminally stupid.

Everyone who knows me or my work knows that I am a principled socialist. But for me, my decision not to discriminate against this applicant whom I had never met, and whom Max Watson (a now very active UNISON trade unionist who is also suspended) had met once at a party is actually the survival of a liberal approach to others in my university. If a Research Institute dedicated to the promotion of social justice in a public institution will not give someone like Jawad the chance to work, who else will?

You'll realise that we are all in a state of shock. Three of the 13 WLRI staff are now suspended. Two others are still under investigation. I fear for our future - just weeks after celebrating our tenth anniversary.

The email addresses of Malcolm Gillies, VC, and the other governors are below. Please do inundate them with emails protesting this awful situation. The UCU and UNISON are united in supporting the three of us who are suspended - and your protest, and those you can encourage others to take, will strengthen their hands in the 'informal contacts' that are taking place in the hope of preventing the university from taking the next step of firing those it has suspended.

thanks in advance

all the best


governors' addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
STOP PRESS  Petition Launched

A petition has been launched to defend those under attack at London Met

Stop the Witch Hunt - Defend Max Jawad and Steve Petition | GoPetition

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