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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Mohammed Asha 'a brilliant student'
By Dale Gavlak
BBC News, Amman

In Amman, family and friends of a Jordanian doctor detained by British police in connection with car bombing plots in London and Glasgow have been talking about his background and education.

Jubilee School in Jordan
Mohammed attended a school for gifted children in Jordan

They recalled the slight, bespectacled neurosurgeon as being far more concerned about advancing his promising medical career than pursuing Islam or politics.

Dr Mohammed Asha, 26, a Palestinian brought up in Jordan and holding a Jordanian passport, was arrested on the M6 in Cheshire on Saturday night along with a 27-year-old woman thought to be his wife.

He worked as a junior physician at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.

'Not politically involved'

Dr Asha's instructor at the University of Jordan's medical school and the faculty's Vice Dean, Dr Azmi Mahafzah, called the young physician "a brilliant student who graduated first of his class in 2004".

"I can't even remotely imagine him being involved in extremist activities or terrorism," Dr Mahafzah said of his student of six years.

I remember him as a liberal thinker who respected other nationalities and religions - that's what we were educated in our schools and in our career as doctors
Dr Aseel al-Omari, former colleague

"He was not politically involved at all. The only thing that preoccupied him was his studies," he said.

"Dr Asha is a determined physician who wanted to pursue his specialty in neurosurgery in Britain," the microbiologist added.

A female medical colleague, Dr Aseel al-Omari, a former colleague of Dr Asha's, now works as a laboratory specialist at the University of Jordan hospital.

Both travelled the same celebrated educational path over the past decade - first as gifted students at Amman's prestigious Jubilee School and, later, at the country's top medical faculty.

The Jubilee secondary school, founded by the late King Hussein's wife, Queen Nour, encourages religious tolerance and provides exposure to other cultures.

It is a place where boys and girls easily mix, a rarity in conservative Middle Eastern culture.

Dr Omari said Dr Asha had no problems fitting in there or at the university.

"He has always been known as such a model for the rest of us," Dr Omari said.

"Yes, he's a good Muslim, but he never espoused any extremist or terrorist ideology."

"I remember him as a liberal thinker who respected other nationalities and religions - that's what we were educated in our schools and in our career as doctors," she added.

'Mistaken arrest'

Jordan's press ran front page stories about Dr Asha's arrest and interviews with his father, Jamil Abdelkader Asha, but refrained from commenting on the situation.

The father of Mohammed Asha, Jamil
Dr Asha's father said his son had never shown extremist tendencies

But a medical student at the University of Jordan, who asked that his name not be used, expressed fear that he would be refused entry to Britain in the coming months to pursue his medical career because of the incident.

Dr Asha's father, a teacher, told the BBC that his son Mohammed "never showed any signs of growing militancy" during his past three-year stay in Britain.

He said he and Dr Asha "were in phone contact every week" and that his son looked forward to an upcoming visit to Jordan on 12 July with his wife, Marwa Dana, and their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Anas.

The father called Dr Asha's arrest a "mistake" but expressed confidence that the British judicial system would prove his innocence.

Security officials in Amman said Dr Asha had no previous criminal record in Jordan.

A top Jordanian official said the government was closely following investigation with British authorities.

He called information about the doctor's alleged involvement in the bombing plots "very sketchy" and said Jordan was told that Dr Asha was merely a "possible suspect," who was not charged with any crime.

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