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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Thai man bailed ahead of appeal
Sakchai Makao
Sakchai Makao has lived on the islands since he was 10
A young Thai man facing deportation from Shetland has been released on bail pending his appeal.

Sakchai Makao, 23, who has lived on the islands since he was 10, was taken from his home in Lerwick two weeks ago.

He was being held in Durham Jail while awaiting deportation as a foreign national with a criminal record. He was convicted of fireraising in 2004.

Makao told BBC Scotland after his release on bail: "I feel great, I have had so much support."

A judge decided he could return to Lerwick pending his appeal against Home Office plans to deport him.

The judge gave consideration to the massive amount of support demonstrated for Sakchai
Alistair Carmichael
Orkney and Shetland MP

His bail application was heard at the North Shields Asylum and Immigration Centre in the north east of England and he is expected back in Lerwick on Wednesday.

Makao said: "I just want to get home and get back to normal."

Of his next goal of avoiding deportation he said: "It's one step closer but it's still a battle."

He spent eight months in jail for fire-raising two years ago.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard a mobile building and car were destroyed by fire when he was drunk in "two moments of madness" in 2002.

Efforts 'doubled'

The appeal against moves to deport him will be heard on 7 July.

Politicians and local campaigners welcomed his release on bail.

Scottish Lib Dem Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael told the BBC Scotland news website: "I am delighted that Sakchai has been released and is going home.

"But this is not the end and the full appeal hearing is the one we really need to win.

"The judge gave consideration to the massive amount of support demonstrated for Sakchai.

"The cheering thing is we have had a fair and impartial consideration of this case which is the one thing the Home Office has denied him."

Picture from Craig G Chapman Photography
About 800 people turned in Lerwick in support of Sakchai

Campaigner Davie Gardner said: "Let's hope his release is a good sign for the appeal.

"We will treat is as a good sign as they must trust him not to be a danger to the public or at risk of absconding.

"The ordeal he has suffered is lifted in a temporary sense.

"The campaign will now double its efforts."

Makao has won athletics medals in Shetland, taking part in sports such as the long jump and triple jump.

More than a third of the population of Shetland has signed a petition calling for his release, and about 800 people turned up to a demonstration on Shetland in his support.

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


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Sakchai's reaction to being released on bail



SEE ALSO
Sakchai campaign for Tony Blair
14 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
MSP appeals for Sakchai release
13 Jun 06 |  North East/N Isles
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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