CHINA: Academic banned from travelling

A prominent Chinese academic who was to speak at an academic conference in the United States has been barred from leaving China. Professor Cui Weiping, a poet and professor at the Beijing Film Academy, had planned to lecture at Harvard University and attend a conference sponsored by the Association for Asian Studies. But the director of her school said she had been forbidden to travel.

The New York Times reported that Cui believed she was being punished by the Chinese authorities for her commentary on human rights and free speech.

Most recently, her activities have included posting social criticism on her blog, sponsoring a seminar on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and sending out Twitter messages about the jailing of Liu Xiaobo, a writer who was convicted of subversion last year for demanding increased liberties.

The professor has faced problems with the authorities on numerous occasions in the past. During the 20th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square, police officers spent several days stationed outside her Beijing apartment.

The New York Times

IRAN: Nuclear scientist defects to US

An Iranian nuclear scientist who has been missing since June 2009 has defected to the US. According to ABC News Shahram Amiri, a researcher at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, disappeared in Saudi Arabia while on a Muslim pilgrimage. Amiri was found in the US almost 10 months later, reportedly helping the CIA in its efforts to block Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran has accused the US of abducting Amiri but Washington denied any knowledge of the scientist and the CIA declined to comment on the reports. ABC News said the scientist had been extensively debriefed and had helped to confirm US intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear programme. His defection was apparently the result of a wider operation, under which the US has been approaching Iranian scientists to try to persuade them to defect.

BBC News

INDIA: Professors grilled over links to rebels

A Delhi university professor was detained by police on 4 April and questioned for more than three hours for suspected links to Maoists. Sunil Mandiwal, an assistant professor of Hindi at Dayal Singh College, was picked up around 4pm by police from his residence where Maoist literature was found, The Telegraph reports. He was released after three hours of questioning.

Mandiwal denied being involved with Naxalites, a group of far-left radical communists supportive of Maoist ideology. He stressed he was a member of several rights organisations like the Democratic Front of India. Delhi police have reportedly been drawing up a list of Maoist sympathisers among academics and writers in the city.

The Telegraph

AZERBAIJAN: University criticised for poor security

The Prosecutor-General's office in Azerbaijan has warned about a lack of security measures at a university where a massacre took place nearly a year ago, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports.

Baku's State Oil Academy reportedly remains unguarded, making it easy for unauthorised people to enter the campus.

In April 2009, 12 students and administrators were shot dead and 13 other students were injured. Rustam Usubov, Azerbaijan's Deputy Chief Prosecutor, said the Education Minister should develop a security plan for all universities in the country and ensure the security problems at the State Oil Academy were resolved. An Education Ministry spokesman told RFE/RL the ministry would study the request made by the prosecutor's office.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/FL)

INDONESIA: Students linked to terror group

Police are investigating the reported disappearance of 10 students, believed to have been recruited by alleged terrorists fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post reports. The students were active participants in radical Islamic forums and studied in Medan but were last heard from last year.

All 10 were enrolled at North Sumatra University's Polytechnic and Medan State University. Several parents noted dramatic changes in their children's behaviour prior to their disappearance. In early March, police arrested 14 members of a terrorist group in Lamkabeu, Aceh Besar and plan to further increase efforts.

The Jakarta Post

US: Scholar calls for an end to exclusion

South African scholar and political commentator Adam Habib has expressed gratitude to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her recent reversal of the Bush administration's decision to block him from entering the US.

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education Habib, who is in the US visiting several college campuses, argued that the Obama administration should go further and put an end to the policy of ideological exclusion adopted by the previous administration.

Habib, a vocal critic of the Iraq war and some US anti-terrorism policies, was told by the Bush administration his exclusion was based on his role in terrorist activities. He never found out the charges against him.

The American Association of University Professors, the American Sociological Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union worked together with other groups in 2007 to file a lawsuit challenging Habib's exclusion.

The Chronicle for Higher Education

PAKISTAN: Student dies after pro-Taliban attack

A student who was beaten by pro-Taliban radicals at a Pakistani university on 13 March has died of his injuries, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has reported.

Anan Khan, who attended the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar, was severely beaten along with several other students by members of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), a student wing of the hard-line Jamiat-e Islami party. Witnesses have said the IJT attacked him for playing music. Police are said to be investigating the attack.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

UK: Inquiry urged on higher education future

Lecturers are expected to urge ministers to launch an inquiry into the future of universities, BBC News reports. The call will be debated by members of the University and College Union at their annual conference in Aberdeen.

There are general fears the funding increase promised for the next academic year is not enough. Concerns will also be raised over redundancies and cuts in education, rising workloads and a 'creeping privatisation and targets culture' in universities. Other motions will debate the undermining of academic freedom and the use of social networking sites by staff and students.

BBC News

* Jonathan Travis works for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)

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