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Monday, January 20, 2020

Blind Ghanaian student violently pulled from seat in Oxford

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

Ebenezer Azamati was “accosted” by a security guard when he tried to return to a seat he had earlier reserved before the debate on 17 October.

He said he was “very pleased” that claims of “false violent disorder” were retracted by the Oxford Union.

The union has been asked for comment.

The postgraduate student from Ghana said his treatment made him feel “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.

The Oxford University Africa Society said Mr Azamati, who is visually impaired, was “forcibly and violently prevented from re-entering the union to resume his seat” before a debate at the union.

It said he arrived to the union in Frewin Court early to reserve his seat in the chamber before the debate and then returned to his college.

The student was then confronted by a security guard when he tried to return to his seat so Mr Azamati sat in another seat offered by another member before staff attempted to remove him.

The society said: “Even if he had re-entered when the debate had started, such poor treatment through violent means remains unjustifiable.”

Nwamaka Ogbonna, president of the Oxford University Africa Society, said 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.

Ms Ogbonna said: “The argument that he had to leave because there were not any seats is invalid. People are allowed to stand.”

“I think everyone is quite perplexed.”

‘Not human enough’

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, said there were ongoing talks with the union over what steps it can take to address the “failings” exposed by this case.

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

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

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