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Aamer Anwar case - judgement awaited

The High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh today concluded its hearing into the contempt of court allegations against Aamer Anwar. A judgement will be given in due course.

The proceedings followed statements made by Aamer Anwar after a client, Mohammed Atif Siddique, was convicted of "terrorism", and were initiated last November by Lord Carloway, the judge in the Siddique trial.

Today's hearing was conducted by a panel of three three judges - Lord Osborne, Lord Kingarth and Lord Wheatley. According to Lord Osborne, heading the panel, it was "in the nature of an investigation" into the question of whether contempt had occurred.

Paul McBride QC, representing Aamer Anwar, said that it was "neither necessary nor appropriate" for Lord Carloway to send Aamer Anwar's case to the court. He argued that the courts should not penalise people who seek to criticise them.

The court was shown DVDs of Aamer Anwar's speech on the steps of Glasgow High court after the conviction of Mohammed Atif Siddique, and of his interview on "Newsnight." Mr McBride told the court that Aamer Anwar was a political activist as well as a human rights lawyer, and highlighted his involvement in a number of campaigns, including the Stop the War Coalition.

Mr McBride told the court that Aamer Anwar's speech had been made with the authority of Atif Siddique and had been signed off by Atif Siddique in advance, and that it had been made after consultation with the senior and junior counsel representing Atif Siddique in court. He said Atif Siddique had later confirmed in an affidavit that the statement represented his views, although one or two paragraphs had been slightly toned down by Aamer Anwar. Mr McBride added that Aamer Anwar shared many of the views expressed in the statement.

In a move that is unprecedented in Scottish Court, a lawyer representing the human rights organisation Liberty was allowed to make a "third party intervention" in the case. Mr Sheldon, representing Liberty, argued that the freedom of speech guarantees contained in the European Convention on Human Rights were applicable to the case.

The court heard that Mohammed Atif Siddique - the young man whose conviction for "terrorism" is at the heart of the row - has lodged an appeal against his conviction. The appeal will hinge on some of the issues raised in Aamer Anwar's statement last September. Mr McBride QC said that it will be argued that Lord Carloway misdirected the jury at the Glasgow terrorism trial.

At least 60 protestors gathered outside the court in support of Aamer Anwar. The courtroom itself was packed with at least 70 supporters of Aamer Anwar, including members of the Siddique family.

This is the first time that a lawyer in the UK has been charged with contempt of court over comments made after a trial.

We await an announcement of a date for the judgement, and will pass it on as soon as we have it.

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