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Oxford Union: Blind Student Removed From Debate Compensated

September 2, 2020

A blind student who was “violently” removed from the Oxford Union debating society has been paid compensation.

Ebenezer Azamati was “accosted” by a security guard when he tried to return to a seat he had reserved at a debate on 17 October 2019.

The postgraduate student was accused of being dishonest and violent before the union later accepted the allegations were “wholly unfounded and untrue”.

It also agreed the allegations caused “serious harm to his reputation”.

The Oxford Union, which is independent from the university, has a tradition of hosting debates and speakers stretching back to 1823.

Ahead of a debate in the union’s chamber in Frewin Court last year, Mr Azamati, who is a member of the society, was “forcibly and violently prevented” from taking his reserved seat.

The St John’s College international relations student had been initially turned away from the debate before he was allowed in and then removed.

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

The union “wrongly” brought disciplinary proceedings against Mr Azamati before they withdrew allegations of violence and dishonestly and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Azamati, from Ghana, sought legal advice after the incident which he said made him feel “unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country”.

In a statement released on Twitter, the union said: “What happened to Mr Azamati was fundamentally wrong.

“We apologise to him unreservedly and have made a compensatory payment to him in recognition of this.”

The amount of compensation has not been disclosed.

What is the Oxford Union?

The Oxford Union is one of the most prestigious societies in the world and its debating chamber intentionally resembles the House of Commons.

Former prime minister Harold Macmillan once said the union is “the last bastion of free speech in the Western world”.

The union invites world leaders, politicians, celebrities and controversial speakers to give speeches to its members, who are mostly current or former Oxford students.

Past presidents include Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and former Liberal Partyy leader Jeremy Thorpe.

The fall out and response to Mr Azamati’s removal led to a motion of impeachment and resignation of Brendan McGrath, the union’s president at the time.

The student previously said he was “treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment”.

The union said it accepted calls for “root and branch changes” to be made at the society.

It said following discussions with Mr Azamati’s legal team, the society had agreed to commission a review by two lawyers to “closely examine our rules, policies, procedures, practices, staff roles and responsibilities”.

The review will produce a report with recommendations and be published publicly, the union said.

“We must ensure that we become an institution in which such an incident can never recur. We are committed to that change,” it added.

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