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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Show of support for Thai deportee
Sakchai Makao
Sakchai Makao has lived on the island since he was 10
A third of the population of Shetland has signed a petition calling for the release of young Thai man who is facing deportation from the UK.

Sakchai Makao, 23, who has lived on the island since he was 10, was taken from his home in Lerwick a week ago and is being held at Durham Jail.

He is awaiting deportation as a foreign national with a criminal record.

A protest of support was held outside the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday and there will be a rally in Lerwick later.

'Out with character'

Mr Makao's lawyer is appealing against the deportation notice and hopes to secure his release from prison on bail.

His detention is believed to be part of Home Office efforts to trace foreign nationals who have a criminal record.

The sports centre worker and talented athlete was jailed for 15 months in 2004 for fire-raising.

A major campaign has been launched in Shetland to fight the deportation. More than 7,000 Shetland islanders have backed his case.

Lerwick
Mr Makao was taken from his Lerwick home to prison in Durham

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, the transport minister, joined more than 20 supporters of Mr Makao outside the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Scott said: "I want to reflect the strength of feeling on Shetland about people's views on how this young Shetlander has been treated.

"We all hope that bail will be granted and that he will be released with the help of his lawyers and all others who support him."

One protester, Chris Jamieson, 24, from Edinburgh, who went to school on Shetland with Mr Makao, said: "He was such a lovely guy, so much time for everybody, and nobody had a bad word to say about him.

'Government scapegoat'

"The incident was of course a dangerous crime and he was duly sentenced. But it was absolutely out with his character."

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has raised the case in the European Parliament.

He is calling on the European justice commissioner to step in and investigate whether Mr Makao's human rights have been infringed.

Mr Makao's lawyer, Alexandra Bartrope, claims he has been detained because of a "knee-jerk reaction" by the government to foreign criminals.

She told BBC Scotland: "I think it is a case of panic situations and, without much thought to the immigration rules, they have gone and detained Sakchai.

"It would seem that the immigration rules have been put to one side and it is a political decision that has been made here.

"Given that Sakchai has now been in detention for seven days, I will be making a bail application to ask for his temporary release."

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See protesters explain why Mr Makao should be freed



SEE ALSO
Deportee freedom call escalates
12 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
Deportation notice served on man
09 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
Sister condemns deportation bid
08 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
Shetland deportation plan outcry
07 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
Police tracking foreign criminals
28 May 06 |  Scotland

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