University and College staff join writer Iain Banks in backing Aamer Anwar

Press Release from Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Monday 21 April
For immediate release

The University and College Union (UCU) Scotland has today added its weight to the swelling tide of support for embattled human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is facing contempt of court charges over statements he made on behalf of his client Mohammed Atif Siddique, convicted last year of "terrorism" as a result of activities on the internet.In a statement issued today, Terry Brotherstone, President UCU Scotland said:

'Aamer Anwar has worked hard to ensure that all citizens of Scotland have full and equal access to the Scottish justice system. I know personally from having participated with him in the long-running Chokhar family campaign for proper redress following the racist murder of their son that his undoubted reputation as a tireless and courageous fighter against injustice, and racist injustice in particular, is well deserved."

'Recognising that the case is now in process, I want, on our Congress's behalf, simply to endorse Baroness Helena Kennedy's statement, made some time ago: that what Aamer Anwar said "is the sort of thing a young lawyer does when ... describing what their client felt", and that contempt of court proceedings seem "excessive".

'And as Michael Mansfield QC commented: "We need independent strong lawyers who will speak out ... This is exceptionally important for freedom of speech." My colleagues who have raised the issue in our union agree very much with this comment, and this lies behind their strong support for Aamer Anwar."

'The right to free speech of course depends on the rule of law. Equally, the rule of law depends upon the right to free speech. Striking the balance is clearly of critical importance.'

The case against Aamer Anwar will be heard at the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 April.

Writers, lawyers, politicians and trade unionists are amongst those who have signed an open letter in support of Aamer Anwar. Author Iain Banks, one of the signatories to the letter, commented recently:

'The greatest threats we face are not from terrorists - they're from our own governments and institutions doing the terrorists 'job for them by basically making our lives hell. State paranoia, grotesque militarism, burgeoning corruption in domestic politics and international business deals, gross hypocrisy when talking about freedom and democracy, rampant authoritarianism, the police being given what is in effect a licence to kill without sanction or rebuke, creeping Islamophobia and a culture of blaming the victims, attacking the weak and rewarding the bullies, the liars and the greedy; all these are symptoms of a society slowly turning its back on both reason and justice. For as long as we are able to speak out against such idiocy and wickedness there is at least a chance of reversing this contemptible trend. I support Aamer Anwar.'

The UK Stop the War Coalition and Scotland Against Criminalising Communities have given their support to Aamer Anwar ever since the contempt of court proceedings against him were announced. We see the charges as an attack on freedom of speech, an attack on lawyers' right to do their job and on an attack on everybody's right to effective legal representation.

Notes for Editors

  1. The full statement from UCU Scotland can be read at http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3229
  2. The Open Letter in support of Aamer Anwar xcan be read at http://www.sacc.org.uk/defendaamer
  3. Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition, SACC and other groups will be holding a public meeting on Saturday 26 April to discuss issues raised by the case. The meeting - "Law on Trial - Defend Aamer Anwar" will be held at 2pm in the Friends Meeting House, Edinburgh. Speakers will include Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham 6.