Cambridgeshire

Bassingbourn Libyan sex-attack soldiers 'seeking asylum'

(Left to right) Mohammed Abdalsalam, Naji El Maarfi, Khaled El Azibi Image copyright Cambridgeshire Police
Image caption Mohammed Abdalsalam, Ibrahim Naji El Maarfi and Khaled El Azibi (left to right) were jailed for attacking women

Three Libyan soldiers jailed for sexually assaulting women while stationed at an Army base are seeking asylum in the UK, police have said.

Khaled El Azibi, Ibrahim Naji El Maarfi and Mohammed Abdalsalam fled Bassingbourn Barracks and carried out the attacks last October.

Cambridgeshire Police said the men have been released from prison and were at secure immigration units.

A lawyer for one of their three victims said the woman was "dismayed".

Solicitor Richard Scorer said: "It's difficult enough to recover from a situation where you're set upon by a stranger and sexually assaulted.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bassingbourn Barracks had housed the military since World War Two but has since been mothballed

"But if you have to do that in the knowledge that that person has now come to this country and is trying to build a life here, I think that is very, very, very difficult to deal with, and completely wrong and unacceptable.

"I think it's a breach of their human rights and really we can't allow this to happen".

The cadets, who were among 300 being trained to support the newly-formed Libyan government, stole bicycles and rode into Cambridge city centre on 25 October.

During the early hours of the next day they were involved in attacks on three teenagers near Corn Exchange Street.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The women were attacked close to Cambridge Corn Exchange

They each received sentences of between 10 and 12 months and have since been released from prison.

Two other cadets were convicted of raping a man in the city on the same night and were jailed for 12 years.

'Bitter blow'

The grounds for El Azibi, El Maarfi and Abdalsalam claiming asylum have not been revealed.

But immigration experts have told the BBC they could claim they were being persecuted in their home country, or there is now a "fear of persecution" for bringing Libya into disrepute as a result of their criminal convictions in the UK.

The attacks led to the UK government cancelling the training and sending the troops back to Libya.

Image caption The Libyan troops were the first of 2,000 due to be trained at the barracks near Cambridge

At the time it was revealed a "very small handful" of Libyan soldiers had claimed asylum, with Prime Minister David Cameron telling MPs that no soldiers should be allowed to stay in the country.

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, said: "Most people would be astonished that people who committed sex crimes be rewarded for it. It's a pretty bitter blow to those who have suffered pretty horrible attacks."

However, he added that "everyone has the right to be treated the proper way" and blamed the Conservative government and Ministry of Defence for the "appalling mess" that led to the attacks taking place.

The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, Heidi Allen, has been contacted for comment.

The Home Office, which does not comment on individual cases, said: "Those who break our laws should be removed from the country at the earliest opportunity and we will seek to remove any foreign national offender who receives a custodial sentence for a criminal offence."

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