Socialist Worker

Don’t let civil rights lawyer Aamer Anwar be silenced

Issue No. 2076

At the same time as Gordon Brown announces further plans to roll back civil liberties, Scotland’s highest profile human rights lawyer faces jail for comments made after defending his client in a terror trial.

Aamer Anwar faces contempt of court charges following a statement he read on the steps of the high court in Glasgow in September after the conviction of Mohammed Atif Siddique.

Atif, 21, from Clackmannanshire, was convicted of three charges and jailed for eight years.

In the statement Aamer said the accused did not receive a fair trial and that it was heard in an “atmosphere of hostility”.

He also said the prosecution was “driven by the state” and that Atif had been found guilty of “doing what millions of young people do every day – looking for answers on the internet”.

The trial judge Lord Carloway said he was concerned that the solicitor was making “disparaging remarks”.

Aamer has said he would apologise.

Carloway said, “He seems to criticise the advocate depute in stating the prosecution was driven by the state.

“He impugns the verdict of the jury... and the activities of the trial judge.”

Referring to the remark about Atif using the internet to look for answers, Carloway said, based on evidence heard during the trial, that comment was “simply a lie”.

A number of people have come out in defence of Aamer.

Gareth Peirce, a civil rights lawyer, described Aamer as a “lawyer of great courage and principle who has consistently spoken out about injustice”.

She added, “We should be grateful, in times of considerable fear for entire communities, that there are lawyers brave enough to speak out. The right to say the uncomfortable needs to be valued in a democracy.”

Lawyer Imran Khan said, “There should be no attempt to silence lawyers.

“If lawyers can’t speak out then one of the bedrocks of justice – the right to highlight a miscarriage of justice – just goes.”

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a Labour member of the House of Lords, said, “This is exactly the sort of thing a young lawyer does when they are describing what their client felt.

“To take it to the stage of contempt of court is excessive.”

Glasgow Stop the War Coalition has produced an open letter in support of Aamer.

Signatories include Mohammad Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central and Bashir Maan, convener of the Muslim Council for Scotland.

It is available from glasgowstopwar@gmail.com

For the report on Atif’s trial, go to » Civil rights queries over ‘terrorist’ conviction


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Tue 6 Nov 2007, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2076
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