EXCLUSIVE: Libyan student allowed to stay in UK despite MI5 fears over links to Gaddafi regime
A LIBYAN student was given indefinite leave to remain in the country despite MI5 concerns about his links to the Gaddafi regime, it has emerged. Details of the man being allowed to stay here permanently by the Home Office emerged as he tried to appeal against being subsequently refused British citizenship. The Special Immigration Appeal Committee (SIAC) heard claims MI5 tried to recruit the now 52-year-old because of his suspected links to Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan regime in May 2011. It was two months after the NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya and five months before the dictator was bludgeoned to death in the streets of Sirte. MI5 suspected he may have been working for the Libyan security services in his role as President of the Libyan Society at Nottingham University. After Gaddafi's brutal death the man, known only as AMA, gave a speech at a memorial gathering for the late dictator praising how he provided free electricity and education to his people. Just four years later he was given indefinite leave to remain in the country. He later applied for full British citizenship, but it was rejected on grounds he "did not meet the requirement of good character because of past links to the Libyan government under Gaddafi." Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch, which campaigns for tougher immigration controls, said: “Why was this man allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK if his dubious past and links to the Gadhafi regime, and other information known to the government, disqualified him from being granted British citizenship?" David Spencer, research director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: "It is troubling that someone for whom there is clearly enough evidence to deny a citizenship application should nonetheless have been granted indefinite leave to remain." AMA told the hearing he qualified as a pharmacist in Libya and came to the UK in 2004 to study. During the 2011 uprising, Libyan students split into two groups with one supporting the action, and the other, which he joined, favouring "peace" and the regime remaining in power, he said.
PROTEST: AMA attended 2011 demos in Downing Street against military intervention in Libya
AMA attended around six demonstrations outside Downing Street against the war and foreign intervention. He said in May 2011 a package containing a mobile phone which started to ring was delivered to his door. An SIAC public judgement for the case said: "A female voice asked him to identify himself and invited him to a meeting at Beaston Police Station. "There he met a woman and a man, who claimed to be from MIS. "He was asked questions about his personal and professional life and about his views on the political situation in Libya. "He was asked whether he supported Gaddafi and said that he did not. "He was also shown photographs of Libyan students and asked to identify them." He claimed a month later he was contacted by the same two people who asked him "to co-operate and give them information," but he refused. He was asked if he was working for the Libyan intelligence service, but denied this, he said. Grounds for not being of good character can include involvement in criminality, terrorism, dishonesty, immigration-related matters, deprivation and not being financially sound. A refused applicant should be told which ground applies, but AMA was not, because it was said to be not in the interest of national security to do so. Christine Hughes, a senior executive officer in the Office for Security and Counter-terrorism said in a statement being "a current threat to national security" was not a secretary of state's only consideration. She added: "I also considered that (AMA) has not provided any explanation for his support nor shown any remorse for it." AMA argued he was given no valid grounds for the refusal and had been unable to properly contest it. However, the SIAC said it had been shown evidence in a closed session, that could not be disclosed on public interest grounds, that supported the refusal. These were explained in a confidential version of the judgement that cannot be published. The public judgement added: "The material we have considered in closed convinces us that there was a proper evidential basis on which the secretary of state could rationally conclude that AMA was not of good character because of his links to the Gaddafi regime." A Home Office spokeswoman would not comment on the specific case, but said: "Citizenship is a privilege not a right, and the Home Secretary is entitled to apply a high standard when considering whether an individual is of good character in order to qualify for citizenship. "Not being considered suitable on good character grounds for the privilege of holding British citizenship does not necessarily mean that an individual poses a threat to the UK or should not remain here."