Aamer Anwar case threatens freedom of speech

Aamer Anwar case threatens freedom of speech
Lawyers and misscarriage of justice victims give their support

Press Release from Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
10 am Thursday 24 April
For immediate release

A public meeting is to be held in Edinburgh on Saturday to discuss issues raised by the contempt of court charges against human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.

The meeting takes place at the Friends Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace, from 2pm. Paddy Hill - one of the "Birmingham Six" wrongly convicted of IRA terrorism in 1974 - will be speaking at the meeting. Other speakers include terrorism and media expert Professor David Miller of Strathclyde University, and Professor Philip Taylor, who campaigned with Aamer Anwar to get justice for the Chhokar family after Surjit Chhokar was murdered by racists in Lanarkshire in 1998.

Aamer Anwar is facing trial over comments he made last year about the conviction of his client Mohammed Atif Siddique on "terrorism" charges. Human rights campaigners say that the case threatens freedom of speech. This is expected to be a key issue when the case is heard at the High Court in Edinburgh next Tuesday.

Many leading lawyers have given Aamer Anwar their backing. Liz Davies, Chair of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, says:

"The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers fully supports Aamer Anwar at his forthcoming trial. Aamer is known to us as a brave, committed, utterly professional lawyer of the highest standing. It's hard to see that these charges are anything but politically motivated and we stand shoulder to shoulder with him in resisting them. At a time when the government and parts of the legal profession are prepared to ride rough-shod over our civil liberties, we need lawyers who are prepared to defend unpopular cases and stand up for the rights of the individual. Without those lawyers, there will be more miscarriages of justice."

Paddy Hill agrees. He says:

"In a world where more people are seen as suspects, the need for human rights lawyers has never been more crucial."

Liz Davies and Paddy Hill are amongst the signatories to an open letter supporting Aamer Anwar. Other signatories include veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, lawyers Gareth Peirce and Imran Khan, MSPs Shirley-Ann Somerville and Bill Wilson, MP Mohammed Sarwar, and Massoud Shadhareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Campaigners are expected to deliver the letter to the Scottish Parliament next week.

Aamer Anwar has in recent years been a prominent opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Stop the War Coalition has given its support to him and Nicola Fisher, Chair of Glagow Stop the War Coalition, will be speaking at Saturday's meeting.

Notes for Editors

  1. Speakers at the public meeting include: Paddy Hill (Birmingham 6), Professor David Miller (Strathclyde University), Nicola Fisher (Chair, Glasgow Stop the War Coalition), Professor Philip Taylor (Chokkar Family Justice Campaign), Jock Morris (Chair, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees). The meeting will be chaired by: Zahid Ali (Co-Chair, Stop the War Coalition Scottish Steering Committee). It is being organised by Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition and Scotland Against Criminalisaing Communities. Doors open 1.30pm. More details at www.sacc.org.uk