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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
MSP appeals for Sakchai release
Picture from Craig G Chapman Photography
Tavish Scott addressed a rally in Lerwick
A leading MSP has made appealed for the Home Secretary, John Reid, to allow the release of a Thai man who is facing deportation from Shetland.

Tavish Scott, Lib Dem MSP for Shetland and Scotland's transport minister, made his comments at a rally in Lerwick attended by about 800 people.

Sakchai Makao is being held as part of a Home Office crackdown on foreign nationals with a criminal record.

The 23-year-old spent eight months in jail for fire-raising two years ago.

Sandy Cluness, convenor of the Shetland Islands Council, pledged at the meeting to underwrite whatever legal costs were needed to bring Mr Makao back.

Mr Makao, 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.

A major campaign has been launched in Shetland to fight the deportation of the sports centre worker and talented athlete.

More than 7,000 islanders have backed his case.

Mr Scott also joined more than 20 supporters of Mr Makao outside the Scottish Parliament earlier on Tuesday.

Picture from Craig G Chapman Photography
About 800 people packed into a leisure centre in Lerwick

He 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."

Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Eleanor Scott, said she had written to the home secretary expressing her outrage at the proposed deportation.

Dr Scott said: "I am shocked and appalled by the 'dawn raid' to arrest Sakchai and I am in full support of the campaign to ensure his release.

"The crime for which he served a prison sentence is not remotely in the same category as those of the "murderers and sexual offenders" on which much has been written in the press recently.

"Sakchai is not in any way a danger to society; on the contrary he is a valued member of a small community.

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

See protesters explain why Mr Makao should be freed

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