London Metropolitan University researcher suspended over bombing conviction
11:17 22 February 2013
A London Metropolitan University research manager has been suspended after it was found he was convicted 17 years ago for his part in a car bomb attack on the Israeli embassy.
Jawad Botmeh was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 1996 after he was found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK.
Released in 2008, Botmeh has been working at London Met’s Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI) for five years.
Botmeh was suspended on February 7, the Unison London Met Uni branch said, while union activist and London Met research administrator Max Watson was also suspended.
Professor Steve Jefferys, director of London Met’s Faculty Advanced Institute for Research (FAIR) and head of WLRI, was also suspended on Wednesday for “potential gross misconduct”, the Unison London Met Uni branch said.
Botmeh, along with Samar Alami, were convicted on the basis that they were part of a UK-based terrorist cell which, acting alone, planned to sabotage the Middle East peace process.
Two car bombs were set off outside the embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens and the offices of a Jewish charity in north London. No-one was killed.
Botmeh and Alami lost an appeal against their conviction in 2001, although they gained support from groups including Amnesty International and Gareth Peirce, solicitor for the wrongly jailed Birmingham Six.
Unison’s London Met Uni branch insists that Botmeh declared his conviction when he applied for the role and was suspended shortly after he was elected as a staff governor.
Mr Jefferys put Botmeh forward to be interviewed some five years ago as a part-time casual administrative worker on a temporary three-month contract, despite his criminal record, Unison added.
The branch said: “Steve, Jawad and Max have broken no university rules. They have all been entirely open and honest with the university. Professor Jefferys had the authority to make casual appointments.
“There were no procedures suggesting he should discriminate against former prisoners. Jawad had twice informed the university in writing of his earlier prison sentence and conviction and this evidence is on their files.”
Mr Watson did not want to comment further but has released a statement on his blog.
In the statement, he said: “I am proud to have worked with Jawad for five years at the Working Lives Research Institute.
“I was impressed and honoured by the fact that my colleagues, like me, looked beyond his prison sentence and instead on his ability to do the job.
“We gave Jawad an opportunity to move on from his past, to work, to have dignity in his life, and we have never looked back.”
A London Met spokesman said: “London Metropolitan University has a duty of care to all its staff, students and partners. It is undertaking investigations and has nothing further to add at this time.”