can't believe my son's a fanatic'

Evening Standard 

They spent yesterday being questioned at at a high-security police station after they were dramatically arrested on the M6 at the weekend.

Junior doctor Mohammed Asha, 26, and his university-graduate wife Marwah were held because he is suspected of playing a key role in the car bomb plot.

But yesterday their families expressed bewilderment at the suggestion that they could be terrorists. Dr Asha's family said he loved Britain, while his wife's tearful parents said their daughter was innocent.

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Family day out: Trainee neurosurgeon Mohammed Asha and his wife Marwah, a 27-year-old lab technician, with their young son Anaf


Saudi-born Dr Asha, who grew up in Jordan, was training to be a neurosurgeon at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent, while his 27-year-old wife looked after their twoyear- old son Anaf at their suburban home in Newcastle- under-Lyme.

Hospital colleagues said they were 'astonished' that the well-respected, quiet doctor could be accused of plotting mass murder.

"My son is incapable of such acts," said Dr Asha's father Jamil Abdelkader Asha from his modest home in Amman, Jordan.

"My son was happy in Britain, he was always telling us. He didn't feel he was the brunt of any negative sentiment as an Arab or a Muslim, on the contrary.

"And he is not the type to get involved in political issues – at university he wasn't even a member of any student unions. He is a devout Muslim like the rest of us, but he is not extremely religious. He didn't have time for religion because he was always studying."

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Jameel Asha holds his son's photo and Mrs Asha's graduation photo


Mr Asha, who is Palestinian, said his son was born in Saudi Arabia when the family lived there in the 1980s before moving to Jordan in 1991, where Dr Asha was educated.

An exceptional student, Dr Asha won a scholarship to the Jubilee School for gifted pupils in Amman, where he met and shook hands with Queen Noor of Jordan after being invited to a dinner for the country's top students.

He went on to the University of Jordan's medical school, after achieving the third-highest mark in the national entrance exam for medicine.

As one of the top three medical students in the country, Dr Asha was granted a full scholarship by the Jordanian ministry of higher education to study at the university, and qualified in 2004 before moving to the UK in 2005 with Marwah, a lab technician, and their son.

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Promising student: Asha meets Queen Noor of Jordan at a dinner


Dr Asha came to Britain to train to be a neurosurgeon, said his father.

Mr Asha, a 55-year-old retired teacher who has eight children in all, called on Jordan's King Abdullah II to intervene with the British authorities, saying: "Not all Arabs are terrorists. It's a mistake.

"The British are going to find out it's an error. Mohammed is innocent."

Dr Asha's brother Ahmed, a 31- year-old GP, said: "He was in love with the British people. He kept forever singing their praises, the British way of life.

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Star pupil: Asha (circled) with Jordan's King Abdullah, top left


"We laughingly asked him,'“Have you turned into a Brit?' When he came home all the photographs he showed us were Mohammed with foreigners. With this British professor and that British doctor – never Arab friends or colleagues.

"He kept on saying how happy he was living and working there.

"He is not a Muslim extremist, and he's not a fanatic. It's nonsense because he has no terror connections.

"We didn't believe it when they told us he had been arrested – and we still don't believe it.

"When would he have the time to do such silly things? He was working all the time. In the morning he attended lectures, in the afternoon he was working.

"He was booked to come home on July 12. We had even renewed Marwah's passport and sent it by DHL to enable her to travel.

"Mohammed was constantly on the phone checking shoe sizes for children in the family so he could bring back shoes from England with him."

Mrs Asha's father Yunis Dana, 55, said: "I just can't believe it's true – he is the best son-in-law you could ask for. We're worried about our delicate daughter and concerned for our grandson. We are desperately trying to find out more information about what has happened to them."

Mr Dana and his wife Islah, also 55, were inconsolable at their home in Amman, where Mr Dana added:

"This has got to be a terrible, terrible coincidence. Our daughter is a beautiful girl but, more importantly, she has a beautiful mind."

Yesterday police continued to search the rented detached home in Chesterton, Newcastle-under- Lyme where Dr Asha lived with his family.

His office at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, where he worked in the neurosurgery department, was also searched.

An anaesthetist who worked with him said: "The medical fraternity here is absolutely astonished that a junior doctor could have been arrested accused of such a terrible plan.

"We are all completely and totally shell-shocked because, in our eyes, Dr Asha was a plausible and well-respected junior medic and one who had made great strides in his medical career.

"If he was, as is suspected, attempting to set off bombs on the UK mainland, then his deception of everyone here at the hospital has been nothing short of miraculous. He seems to us a conscientious and dedicated doctor and family man.

"If it turns out that he is the mastermind behind this bombing campaign, then he is also an extremely good actor who has pulled the wool over the eyes of dozens of colleagues.

"We are all completely stunned."

A nurse at the hospital said: "He gave the impression of being a dedicated family man though he never really spoke about his wife or son to us and appeared to want to keep that private.

"Everyone thought he was quiet because he was new to the country, young and was learning the job."

A spokesman for the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital confirmed that Dr Asha had worked there and at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, which is part of the same trust, between August 2005 and August 2006.

Adrian Osborne, head of communications, said: "He was here for a year. He came here for the first year of his post-qualification and was with us for 12 months.

"He came straight from university and moved on last August.

"Dr Asha spent time with different consultants in different parts of the hospital."

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