Lawyer critical of police actions

Lawyer critical of police actions

Source: iWitness 15 May 2006

IMRAN AZAM

PROMINENT human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, believes community relations are being damaged due to the conduct of Scottish Police forces in anti-terror cases.

The 38-year-old, of Beltrami-Anwar solicitors, has represented several 'terror' suspects, including a group of Algerians accused of plotting an attack on Edinburgh’s 2005 Hogmanay celebrations. He is adamant that the police will lose the trust of the community if it continues to act in such an aggressive and unapologetic manner.

He said: "We have seen post 7/7 Muslims around the country being arrested in a blaze of publicity, with their homes and businesses being raided, yet a few days later they are being released without charge and without even an apology. It is essential that they [police] rely on solid intelligence and build bridges with the Muslim communities. The reality is all they are succeeding in doing is terrorising the community.

"We live in a democracy yet the police have carte blanche to do what they want. The majority of Muslims are law abiding citizens but are being viewed as terrorists. I know of countless individuals who are being intimated and harassed by the police at Glasgow Airport. All this does is create barriers and decreases the chances of people willing to assist the police in terrorism related issues. However because every single Muslim is being lumped in the one category the real bombers slip under the net and we all know what happened in London."

Mr Anwar, further revealed that the latest Scottish terrorist 'suspects' are considering suing Central Scotland Police on the grounds of wrongful arrest. Several members of one family in Alva, Clackmannshire, were arrested on terrorist charges. Atif Siddique, has been charged under the 2000 Terrorism Act, while his brother Asif, 25, and two uncles Mohammed Niaz, 45, and Mohammed Rafiq, 40, were arrested but released without charge.

Asif Siddique, speaking to the iWitness about his ordeal, revealed how his dream of pursuing a legal career lies in ruins.

He said: "I was hoping to go back to university for my final year but now I don't know what to do. Who is going to give me a job? Despite not being charged, people will always say 'there is no smoke without fire'.

The 25-year-old, former part-time call centre worker admits his recent experience has brought him closer to God.

He added: "When I was alone in the cell in Govan [high security prison] I requested a janamaz [prayer mat] and a copy of the Quran. I have to admit that I was not a regular reader of my prayers, but if there is one thing I can take from what happened to me it is that I have come closer to my religion.

"Some of the police officers were OK, others were very aggressive. They asked me about my time in Pakistan. I went three years ago. It was my first time back for over 10 years. I went to attend my cousins wedding. The police wanted to know if I had attended any terrorist training camps. I was also questioned about postcards that were sent to me by my friends in 2000 from New York. One had an image of the World Trade Centre. But the strangest question was why I owned a van? They said terrorists use different vehicles for different operations. I told them I had a van to do the cashy (cash and carry) for the shop."

His uncle Mohammed Niaz, who was arrested in Causeway Head, said the reaction from the local community has been encouraging. He said: "I have had a business in the area for 26 years and in that time I have built a good relationship with the locals. I have had one of two comments but generally the people have been very supportive. They were shocked that I was arrested under terrorism charges. Life for my children at school has not been easy as some of the kids have been making some comments. However the school is monitoring any inappropriate behaviour towards them."

Mr Niaz further revealed that a major concern for him is his cousin Mohammed Rafiq. Mr Rafiq, from the Vehari district of Pakistan, found himself being arrested despite only being in the country on holiday.

He added: "The police have still to return his passport but as soon as that happens he wants to fly back. This was his first time in Scotland and it will no doubt be his last. He is not concerned at what the authorities in Pakistan are going to say when he gets back. He wants to see his family again. He has a wife and five kids. The youngest is only six months old. He has been traumatised at what has happened too him. He is a farmer. He is a very simple man. He knows nothing about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida."