Open Letter in Support of Aamer Anwar

Defend Aamer Anwar

Defend the Right to Free Speech

View the advertisement published in the Sunday Herald on 27 April 2008(pdf file)

It is a sad and dangerous day for our country if a lawyer who sees injustice cannot say so loud and clear
- Gareth Peirce, solicitor

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Three judges sitting at Edinburgh High Court ruled on 1 July 2008 that human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar DID NOTcommit contempt of court in statements he made following the conviction of his client, Mohammed Atif Siddique, on "terrorism" charges last September.

stwlogo (1K) Open Letter in support of Aamer Anwar

The letter is now closed for new signatures - THANK YOU to everyone who signed.

Recently, Mohammad Atif Siddique was sentenced to a total of 8 years for terrorism offences. Irrespective of the differing views on the outcome of the case, the criticism levelled towards Mr Siddique's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, over a statement that he released on the day of the verdict is extremely disturbing.

Following sentencing on the 23rd October, Aamer Anwar was ordered to appear at a court hearing before the Judge. He was accused of showing disrespect to the Judge, the Jury and the Court. Aamer has now been informed that the matter may be remitted to another High Court Judge to consider Contempt of Court proceedings against him. The possibility that Aamer Anwar may have to face contempt charges is deeply worrying and is an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech.

Aamer has earned a reputation as one of the most prominent human rights lawyers in Scotland today. He represented the Chokhar family in their long struggle for justice and has diligently defended asylum-seekers. He has represented victims of the 'war on terror', who were accused of terrorism, and who where eventually proved innocent of the charges laid against them. In 2005, he helped campaigners negotiate a way to the G8 Summit at Gleneagles and defended demonstrators arrested during the protests.

Following the collapse of the Worlds End Trial, the Lord Advocate stressed the importance of the independence of the Judiciary and Prosecution. Equally as important is an independent defence, which is often all that stands between the accused and the state. We might not always agree with Aamer Anwar, but he is part of a rich and important tradition of campaigning lawyers that speak without 'fear or favour'.

If the Judiciary is successful in silencing Aamer Anwar, then this will have far-reaching consequences. A lawyer's job is to represent their clients to the best of their ability ? no matter what crimes they are accused of.

All those who campaign against injustice and for a better world, know that one day they may have to face the state in a courtroom. They need lawyers who are willing to advocate and speak out on their behalf. We should all be very worried if the effect of this case is to make lawyers reluctant to carry out this work for fear of the repercussions.

We believe that the current attack on Aamer Anwar is an attack on the fundamental right of all lawyers to represent their clients.

First Published on the letters page of The Herald, 8 November 2007
To be republished as an advertisement in the Sunday Herald, 27 April 2008

The letter is now closed for new signatures - THANK YOU to everyone who signed.

The Open Letter is supported by the Stop The War Coalition

Aamer Anwar wins court battle

On 1 July 2008 three judges sitting at Edinburgh High Court ruled that human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar DID NOT commit contempt of court in statements he made following the conviction of his client, Mohammed Atif Siddique, on "terrorism" charges last September.

In February 2010 the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh quashed Mohammed Atif Siddique's conviction under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and allowed him to walk from the court a free man. Mohammed Atif Siddique isn't a terrorist and he should never have been charged with terrorism.

Aamar Anwar revealed after the appeal court hearing that the Law Society of Scotland had decided to take no action against him following an investigation triggered by critical comments made by the High Court at the same time as it cleared Anwar of contempt of court charges brought as a result of statements he made after Siddique's conviction in September 2007. The Law Society decision was taken on 28 May 2009, but Aamer Anwar was unable to release the information at that time as proceedings were still live against Mohammed Atif Siddique.

In October 2010 SACC published its response to the Government's review of counter-terrorism powers. SACC is calling for repeal of Section 57 and the closely related Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Police have used threats of prosecution under Section 58 to prevent people from taking photographs in public places. Section 57 could be used the same way. Both sections are far too widely drawn and can lead to the criminalisation of legitimate activity. The use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography is one of the the issues that the Government has asked the review to look at.