Support grows for Aamer Anwar
Press Release from Glasgow Stop the War Coalition
7 December 2007
Today in the Edinburgh High Court, the three most senior judges in Scotland presided over a procedural hearing with regards to the human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar. Anwar faces a contempt of court charge after speaking out on behalf of his client Mohammed Atif Siddique.
Significantly, the judges indicated they will compare the rights of solicitors to speak out in defence of their clients in Scotland and in England. In England, it is standard procedure for solicitors to speak out on behalf of their clients. Prominent English solicitors such as Michael Mansfield QC, Gareth Peirce, and Imran Khan reacted with shock to the original decision to charge Anwar with contempt and have rallied to his defence. The judges also ruled that they will consider evidence from the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10, which deals with freedom of expression.
Lindsay German, convenor of the Stop the War coalition, reacted to the procedural hearing stating: "While we do not believe Aamer should be facing the charge of contempt of court, we are pleased to see the court will be hearing evidence about the English legal system and the European Convention on Human Rights. We are optimistic that the judges will find Aamer completely innocent of the charge. Every person in Britain, especially defence solicitors, need to be free to speak out about injustice, whether it is about illegal wars conducted in Iraq, or in the application of draconian anti-terror laws at home."
Since the original open letter in support of Aamer Anwar was release on 7 November, public support for Aamer Anwar has grown significantly. The letter has now attracted approximately 3000 signatories, including at least 30 legal professionals, 2 MPs, 6 MSPs, the leadership of a wide variety of community and campaigning organisations, and a number of significant cultural and academic figures (please see attached list).
MSP Margo MacDonald has presented a motion to the Scottish Parliament in support of Aamer Anwar, which has gained the support of 9 MSPs. Glasgow University students have also nominated Aamer Anwar for the elected position of Rector of Glasgow University. Readers of "The Firm," Scotland's independent legal magazine, recently voted Aamer Anwar the 9th most influential person in Scotland's legal system. "The Firm" also published an editorial arguing that, "Scottish lawyers should be united to defend the right of the profession to challenge the application of our laws where this is necessary." They explain that:
If a defence solicitor cannot express concerns about new laws because it is seen as an attack on the judge and the trial, then that is a cause of great concern. A defence solicitor's duty is to speak out about injustice, if he or she believes it is warranted. A solicitor is the only one who can put across the position of his client, and they do so outside the court, as they do not have right of audience within.
...Neither the law nor the courts are infallible, and there is a risk that Anwar's referral for contempt could restrict the rights which a solicitor should have, to act in defence of their client. The issue is bigger and more important than this single case. Solicitors should be able to speak out in public for their clients without fear of criminal consequence.