IRAN: Kurdish student sentenced to death

Kurdish student Habibollah Latifi has been sentenced to death by an Iranian court, convicted of 'endangering state security', the Kurdish Globe has announced. Latifi is the third Iranian Kurd to receive a death sentence in less than a month in what appears to be developing into a blatant campaign against ethnic minorities. In late July, two teachers, Anwar Hossein Panahi and Arsalan Oliaii, were also handed death sentences. According to the Globe, six Iranian Kurds are now on death row, including award-winning journalist Adnan Hassanpour. All have been convicted of endangering state security and 'relations with illegal political organisations'. Amnesty International recently expressed concern about the increased repression of Kurdish Iranians, particularly human rights defenders.

MOROCCO: Student arrested for criticising authorities

Student activist Jadda Boubkar, 22, was arrested while leaving his university in Taza City. The arrest appears to have been a result of his support for the boycott of complementary legislative elections and his criticism of educational policies and police repression against students, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has said. The imprisoned student was interrogated on 26 July and again on 6 August. He was questioned about his role as a student activist. The investigating judge decided to postpone proceedings until 13 August - a delay that will keep Boubkar in detention. The ANHRI have demanded that the Moroccan government release Jadda Boubkar immediately, put an end to police repression and guarantee the right to peaceful protest and free expression.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Call to end restrictions on academic freedom

Hundreds of Israeli academics have signed a petition criticising the government for limiting the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students through checkpoints and blockades, the Times Higher Education has said. Authors of the petition have argued that attempts in Britain to protest against Israel's 'mistreatment' of Palestinians by calling for an academic boycott of Israeli universities were counterproductive.

The paper said that protests should be directed towards the Israeli government, rather than Israeli institutions of higher education. The UK University and College Union passed a motion at its congress in May asking members to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions in the light of Israeli academics' 'complicity' in the human rights abuses of Palestinians.

THAILAND: Five student activists disappear

The Student Federation of Southern Border Provinces in Thailand has issued an urgent action appeal on behalf of five student activists who disappeared from their dormitory on 15 August in southern Thailand. Two of the students had been arrested in January and were allegedly tortured in detention.

The victims are all students of the Yala Rajabhat University and had been actively involved in providing training on legal aid and discussion on human rights in the villages. At the time they disappeared, they were also in the process of soliciting financial support for a student camp they were due to hold this week. There is a real concern that the students may be facing ill-treatment during detention.

INDIA: New universities offer more academic freedom

Fourteen new universities to be opened in India over the next few years will be radically different from the country's existing universities by promising to cut red tape and introduce far higher levels of academic freedom. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the new universities will have a semester system, a curricular revision every three years, private-sector financial support, and the freedom to offer faculty incentives in addition to pay. A wide variety of subjects will be on offer and deans will have at least a decade of teaching experience.

EGYPT: Academic sentenced to two years in prison

An Egyptian academic has been sentenced to two years in prison over articles published overseas. On 2 August, the Al Khalifa Misdemeanours' Court sentenced Dr. Saad El Din Ibrahim to two years in prison, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has said. Several parties had accused Dr Ibrahim of publishing articles with false information about Egypt, which consequently 'endangered national security' and defamed the image of Egypt. Ibrahim has had several other cases raised against him in the past, by ruling party members.

Following the sentencing, a new legal action was filed to withdraw Egyptian nationality from Ibrahim, alleging he had damaged the 'public interest and reputation of Egypt'. According to ANHRI, the claimant overlooked Article 16 of Law no. 26, in which there is no mention of such an infringement.

UK: Convicted student wins place at medical school

Majid Ahmed, the student who was told he could not become a doctor because of a conviction for burglary, has won a place at Manchester University medical school. According to The Guardian, the grade A student from Little Horton, Bradford, one of the poorest parts of the country, was rejected by Imperial College London medical school last July after he revealed his conviction. Ahmed was given a four month community service order for a burglary he committed when he was just 16.

Imperial's decision to reject the student triggered a widespread protest from academics. Charities working to rehabilitate young offenders also condemned the decision, while other universities offered to interview him and MP's lobbied for him. The Guardian said that documents obtained by Ahmed under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Manchester had also cited his conviction as a factor in initially rejecting him, despite publicly claiming it was based on his academic record.

* Jonathan Travis is programme officer for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR):