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GLOBAL: Academic freedom reports worldwide

In Iran, another scientist has died in a bomb attack strongly resembling earlier assassinations of those involved in the country's controversial nuclear programme. In Sudan, peaceful student protests across the country have been violently suppressed by security forces. Academics and students at Israel's Tel Aviv University have condemned the institution's security services for acting like a "secret police on campus" in pressuring lecturers to help them spy on students. And in Sri Lanka, thousands of students protesting a range of grievances have been evicted from their campus following a court order.

IRAN: Another nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a university professor and nuclear scientist, was killed in a bomb explosion in Tehran, Aljazeera reported on 11 January.

Roshan, a chemistry expert who graduated from the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, was in charge of a department at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

He was killed on 11 January by a magnetic bomb placed under his car by two men on a motorcycle. Two other men present in the car were injured.

According to Sharif University's website, Roshan was "working on a project of making polymeric membrane for separating gas".

His killing is the latest in a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear scientists.

On 12 January 2010 Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a Tehran University physics professor, was killed in a similar bomb attack. In November 2010, two other scientists were targeted by bomb attacks, which killed one and injured the other.

More recently, in July 2011, student Darioush Rezaeinejad was killed by gunmen on motorcycle. Contradictory reports later discussed his alleged involvement in Iran's nuclear programme.

The Iranian authorities have accused Israel of responsibility for Roshan's assassination, supposedly in a bid to destabilise the country ahead of March presidential elections and to derail its nuclear programme.

But Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi declared on state television that the attack "will not stop Iran's nuclear programme".

Diplomatic tensions are intensifying between the US, Israel and Iran about Iran's controversial nuclear programme. Despite claims that the programme was only developed for civil and peaceful purposes, the US and Israel accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons technology.

SUDAN: Crackdown on student protests

Recent student protests across Sudan have been brutally suppressed by the Sudanese authorities, Human Rights Watch reported on 3 January.

Since mid-December, security forces have violently suppressed student protests in Khartoum, Port Sudan, River Nile State, Gedarif and Kassala, in eastern Sudan.

The focus of the protests includes the alleged political rigging of student union elections, and the killing by state forces of Darfur rebel leader Dr Khalil Ibrahim. Students have also been protesting in support of the Manaseer, a community displaced by the construction of a dam in River Nile State.

On 22 December, students peacefully demonstrating at Khartoum University were brutally dispersed with batons and teargas by police and security forces, leaving many students injured and others arrested. Later that day, police forces raided a student dormitory, arresting 16 students for the night.

And three days later, security forces re-entered the campus to disperse a peaceful sit-in condemning violence.

Despite the university's closure on 29 December and the arrest of three student leaders, students kept gathering.

Additionally, a number of activists and opposition members have been arrested in the past weeks, including Mohammed Hassan Alim Boshi, a recent university graduate and active member of the opposition Baath party. He was arrested on 26 December and detained in an unknown location, supposedly in connection with a speech he gave last month at Khartoum University criticising the ruling party, the National Congress Party.

Human Right Watch has called on the Sudanese authorities and security forces to respect students' right to peaceful protest and immediately to release detained activists and political prisoners. The organisation is also urging Sudanese security forces to stop using violence to disperse peaceful student protests.

The organisation termed the use of violence and arrests in these cases "both illegal and counterproductive" and called on the Sudanese authorities to promote dialogue as a way to work out differences.

ISRAEL: University security services spy on students

Following a controversial letter sent by its security service to lecturers, Tel Aviv University has been accused of spying on its student activists, resulting in widespread criticism from academics and students, Haaretz reported on 22 December.

Lecturers in the history, philosophy and literature departments at the university received a letter from security service asking them to provide details - including names, student ID and telephone numbers - of students seen on a security video.

The students are seen urging other students to participate in their "illegal" activities, which were in fact student debate groups organised on campus in students' free time.

The letter was widely condemned by lecturers and students.

Professor Eli Friedlander, head of the philosophy department, wrote: "I strongly protest the security department head's disgraceful demand in the email. There is no place for a secret police on campus."

Nimrod Flashenberg, a third-year history and philosophy student appearing in the video, explained that students were only aiming to fight "social and political injustices" and expressed regret at the university's oppression of socio-political activity on campus.

Students also reported having received letters warning them of disciplinary actions taken for any public activity without authorisation.

And they accused the university of spying on them via the group's Facebook page.

In response to accusations, university officials said that public activities are allowed "as long as it is legal and authorised by the relevant university authorities".

SRI LANKA: Protesting students evicted from campus

Several thousand students protesting on the campus of Sri Jayawardenepura University have been evicted after a court order requested their expulsion, the BBC reported on 9 January.

The arrest of student leaders last year and their ongoing trials did not stop students at the university from protesting for days against the government before being evicted following a court order.

Students accuse the authorities of interfering in their lives, including university officials' alleged request of virginity tests for some female students.

But their main beef is with government's intention to open private institutions, which will, according to students, end their right to free higher education.

And protest has gathered around the government's demand that all universities appoint a security firm connected to the defence ministry.

Sajith Premadasa, a senior opposition leader from the United National Party who recently warned of the collapse of the entire country's education system, accused the police and the army of using violence and threats against students.

Rejecting allegations of violence against protestors, the government has accused student union leaders of "ragging" or "victimising" new students.

The bombing of a monument for dead student leaders in the first week of January further stirred tensions after students accused soldiers of being responsible for the attack. The army later rejected the accusation.

The recent student protests are taking place in a wider context of discontent towards the education system in the country, particularly given official bungling in the marking of the Sri Lankan school-leaving examination.

* Noemi Bouet is a programme officer at the Network for Education and Academic Rights, NEAR, a non-profit organisation that facilitates the rapid global transfer of accurate information in response to breaches of academic freedom and human rights in education.
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