Frequently Asked Questions/What can I Do to Help?

Who is Aamer Anwar?

Aamer, age 39, is a Scottish solicitor. He’s one of Scotland’s most prominent lawyers, and has defended many controversial political and human rights cases. His clients have included G8 protesters, asylum seekers detained at Dungavel, victims of racist attacks, and terrorism suspects.

In 1991 whilst a student campaigner he was attacked by police officers in a racist attack resulting in the loss of his front teeth, this led to the first successful civil action against the police for a racist attack. From 1992-94 he was the Scottish organiser for the Anti-Nazi League, and destroyed the memorial erected to Rudolph Hess in 1993. He has spoken out powerfully against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in defence of civil liberties.

Why is he facing a contempt of court hearing?

Aamer is the solicitor defending Mohammed Atif Siddique, a 21 year old student from Alva, Clackmannanshire who was recently convicted of violations of the Terrorism Act for possessing and distributing pro-terrorism information that is freely available on the Internet.

Upon Atif’s conviction, Aamer made a statement to the press on Atif’s behalf, denouncing the verdict. The statement claimed that Atif was convicted for “doing what millions of people do everyday, looking for answers on the Internet.” Aamer also criticised elements of the conduct of the judge and prosecution during the trial and stated that the prosecution was conducted in an atmosphere of pressure from the state.

The judge presiding in the case, Lord Carloway, believes that Aamer’s statement and further comments to the press constitute contempt of court, because as a solicitor Aamer is an officer of the court and does not have the same rights to criticize that a defendant or a private citizen has.

Shouldn’t he have kept his mouth shut?

No. A solicitor should have a great deal of leeway when he or she is speaking out on behalf of a client and should be allowed to criticize laws and the judicial process. A solicitor’s right to free speech is arguably even more important than the right of an ordinary citizen to free speech, because an independent defence is often all that stands between an accused and the state. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has declared that “an independent and impartial judiciary and an independent legal profession are essential prerequisites for the protection of human rights and for ensuring that there is no discrimination in the administration of justice.”

What happens next?

On Friday, 7 December, Aamer attended a preliminary hearing at Edinburgh High Court, before three judges. The judges decided that two days will be set aside in the new year to hear Aamer’s arguments and those of Lord Carloway, but a date has not yet been set.

What happens if Aamer’s convicted of contempt of court?

He could face a fine, jail time, and the loss of his right to practice law. This would be a huge blow for free speech, for the movements against war and racism, and for civil liberties. If Aamer is convicted it would create a dangerous precedent against the right of Scottish lawyers to speak out on behalf of their clients.

What can we do?

Although a panel of three judges will decide Aamer’s fate, we can make sure that this decision is conducted in as fair a way as possible by raising awareness of the civil liberties issue involved. We need to publicise what is going on as widely as possible and bring people in the legal profession, students, trade unionists, religious and community leaders into the campaign.

What you can do: 1. Sign the online petition in support of Aamer Anwar. Scotland Against Criminalising Communities are kindly hosting the online petition on behalf of Glasgow Stop the War Coalition. You can send a message of support to glasgowstopwar@gmail.com Download the open letter here and take round your work colleagues, friends and family, and use on stalls. Download the latest leaflet here.
2. Get your trade union, student society or community organization to pass a motion of support for Aamer Anwar, and email to let us know. Download the trade union motion here.
3. Write to your local MSPs and encourage them to support Aamer Anwar by signing the motion to the Scottish Parliament, “S3M-810 Aamer Anwar.”
4. Make a donation to the campaign: please send it to Stop the War Coalition, Aamer Anwar campaign, c/o Dave Sherry, Branch Secretary, TGWU Scottish Housing Branch, 290 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4LD.

6 Responses to “Frequently Asked Questions/What can I Do to Help?”

  1. […] get started, go here – this will tell you what’s going on and what you can […]

  2. SALEEM COIRA Says:

    FREEDOM TO aamer Anwar

    scotland independent and sovereign

  3. […] to pass a motion and send a donation to support Aamer Anwar. For a copy of the sample motion go to https://defendaamer.wordpress.com/about/        * Visit the Defend Aamer Anwar Website – https://defendaamer.wordpress.com/     […]

  4. Colin Cameron Says:

    Aamer defended me brilliantly in Cupar Sheriff Court. I pleaded guilty to having two cannabis plants, with the extenuating circumstance that I use as medication for my chronic sciatica. Aamer argued my absolute human right to self-medicate, thereby securing me a complete admonishment.

  5. The simple fact is the man went outside the court and told lies to the media about what happened at a trial that had finished less than an hour earlier.

    As a solicitor instructed in the case, he should have known that what he was about to say was untrue, misleading and was personally critical of the judge, the jury and was disrespectful to the advocate depute who was described as doing the bidding of “the state”; whatever that was intended to imply.

    He gave the clear impression he thought the court procedure was part of a system of unfairness and repression which is not the case. The person convicted had a trial where evidence was led before jury of fifteen of his peers. He was represented by an independent defence throughout the procedings who did the best they could to improve his situation as was his right.

    Over the years, many people in the legal profession have noticed that Mr Anwar, for all his many talents, acts more like a politician than a lawyer. It could well be the case that the judge simply got fed up with him deliberately misrepresenting to the media court proceedings that are open, held in public, are compliant with all current human rights laws and adequately meet democratic standards of a fair trial.

    Personally, while I have much respect for Mr Anwar as a campaigner, I cannot help but feel he abuses his position as a lawyer to spread a political agenda. Regardless of what you think of the anti-terror laws (which, incidently, were passed after open debate and majority voting by democratically elected politicians), it’s the lot of a lawyer to accept the law as it is. If he or she wants to change the law so badly, he or she should enter politics as many lawyers have done throughout history.

    I shall speculate that the likely sentence will be a substantial fine of about £2,000 and referal to a Law Society misconduct tribunal which will most likely strike him from the roll of solicitors. I don’t jail would be appropriate in this case.

  6. Sean McLeod Says:

    Thanks for the post Colin Cameron.

    You are the only publicly known case where Anwar actually succeeded.

    I agree with Not The Lord Carloway on a fine but I don’t think the Tribunal will have the balls to remove Anwar from the Roll of Solicitors.

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