One of the UK’s most prestigious debating societies has been slammed after a Ghanaian student was ‘dragged’ out of a debate ‘by his ankles.
PHD student Ebenezer Azamati, 25, was manhandled out of the Oxford Union debating chamber by his feet and ejected from the building.
The 25-year-old visually impaired student arrived early at the Oxford Union to reserve a seat as he was worried there were no special provisions for disabled students.
He placed a book on an accessible seat near the entrance to the chamber to reserve it and went back to his college for dinner.
When he returned, he was denied entry, but attempted to sit down in his reserved seat.
Video footage of the incident shows Azamati being forcibly removed from his chair and becoming distressed as he attempts to resist the efforts of two men dragging him out of the room.
Following the incident Union president Brendon McGrath called a disciplinary hearing, where it was claimed that Mr Azamati had ‘behaved violently’ by thrusting an arm out and making aggressive hand gestures as he was being removed from the building.
The committee agreed to suspend Mr Azamati from the union for two terms, prompting protests from campaign groups such as the Oxford University Africa society.
Mr McGrath is facing calls to resign amid criticism that the incident will hinder the elite institution’s chances of attracting more ethnic minority and working class students.
Azamati, who has a BA in Political Science from the University of Ghana and an MSc in International Politics from SOAS, told the Sunday Times he feels ‘unwelcome’ in Britain following the incident.
He said: ‘I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment.’
An appeal hearing on Sunday heard evidence from fellow student Henry Hatwell, who said: ‘Thirty seconds after he [Azamati] sat down, the security guard came in.
Five seconds afterwards he started touching Azamati, who was holding onto the bench. Thirty seconds later they were dragging him by his ankles.’
Mr Azamati’s appeal was represented by senior Oxford staff member Helen Mountfield Principal of Mansfield College and QC barrister.
Documentation from the hearing claimed that Mr Azamati was ‘not violent but acted in alarm . . . as a blind man who had been assaulted . . . and who feared being pulled to the floor’.
It added: ‘A white blind man would not have been treated in the way he was.’
On Saturday, it was confirmed that Mr McGrath had withdrawn his charge of violent conduct against Mr Azamati.
A statement shared by the Oxford University Africa Society said that Mr McGrath had apologised ‘unreservedly for the distress and any reputational damage which the publication of the charge may have caused him.’
Oxford University said: ‘The Oxford Union is an independent society. The university has no control over its events.’