Blind student ‘violently’ pulled from seat

A blind student who was “violently” removed from a prestigious debating society has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Ebenezer Azamati was “very pleased” that allegations of “false violent disorder” were retracted by the Oxford Union after he was removed from a debate in October.

Mr Azamati said his treatment made him feel “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.

The union has been asked for comment.

The Oxford University Africa Society said the postgraduate student from Ghana was “forcibly and violently prevented from re-entering the union to resume his seat” after he attended a debate at the union on 17 October.

The society said Mr Azamati, who is visually impaired, “should have been treated far more courteously… assuming that rules for re-entry prevent anyone from stepping into the chamber at a stipulated time before sessions begin”.

“Even if he had re-entered when the debate had started, such poor treatment through violent means remains unjustifiable”, it added.

The Oxford Union
The Oxford Union intentionally resembles the House of Commons. Image copyright: PA

Nwamaka Ogbonna, president of the Oxford University Africa Society, said the incident started after a security guard had told Mr Azamati he could not enter the chamber because “the union was full” despite the student having apparently reserved a seat.

“I think everyone is quite perplexed,” she added.

Video footage shared online showed an argument between security and Mr Azamati in the chamber before staff appeared to manhandle him.

The St John’s College student, who studies International Relations, said he was “treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment”.

After the charges against Mr Azamati were successfully appealed on Saturday, the president of the Oxford Union, Brendan McGrath, apologised “for the distress and any reputational damage” to the student.

Helen Mountfield QC, who represents Mr Azamati, told the BBC there were ongoing talks with the union “concerning what steps it can take to address the failings exposed by this case”.

The principal of Mansfield College added the talks included discussing “what redress” the union could make “for the assault, discrimination and (subsequently) libels which Azamati suffered”.

The Oxford Union has a tradition of hosting debates and speakers stretching back to 1823 and is independent from Oxford University.

First published 18.11.19: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-50458051

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