Aamer Anwar

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Aamer Anwar
Personal details
Born 1967 (age 46–47)
Nationality British
Political party Scottish National Party
Alma mater University of Glasgow
University of Strathclyde
University of Liverpool
Occupation Lawyer

Aamer Anwar (born 1967) is a Scottish lawyer of Pakistani background. He is noted for his left-wing political views. He is considered one of Scotland's top lawyers, with over 25 years history of being a justice and equality campaigner.In 2014 his firm was awarded Criminal Law Firm of the Year at the Law Awards of Scotland. He has been at the forefront of the Stop the War Coalition and led the campaign against the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005, has campaigned for closure of Dungavel Detention Centre for failed asylum seekers.

He a vocal opponent of the Government's anti-terror laws and is a writer and columnist. Historically a left-leaning independent, on 15 November 2014 he announced that he had joined the Scottish National Party.

Biography[edit]

Born in England, Aamer Anwar moved to Scotland in 1986 to study mechanical engineering at the University of Glasgow for a future in the Royal Air Force. He became a student activist and led a campaign for black students at the city's Dental Hospital.

He left engineering to do sociology and politics. He was still a student when, in 1991, he was chased by police officers for illegally flyposting on Ashton Lane, pushed to the ground, his front teeth were smashed out by the police officer and the attack resulted in him being hospitalised.

He made legal history by successfully suing Strathclyde Police for the racist attack in 1995. Sheriff Evans in the case said in his judgement that he though the attack was racially motivated. He said "My impression of the police officers, in particular the PC, was that their account was stilted and guarded throughout..All their answers were just too vague and had a false ring of injured surprise...They presented a surpressed version events in a concerted effort to santise the actions that night of the PC..Mr Anwar on the other hand had given a truthful,straightforward account of what happened to him. He was genuine and gave a vivid description of being dragged from behind in Ashton Lane by two officers." the judgement concluded

He graduated with an MA in Social Sciences in 2004, and from the University of Liverpool in 1996 with a postgraduate diploma in race law,[clarification needed] and an LLB from the University of Strathclyde in 1999 and a Diploma in Legal Practice in 2000.[citation needed] In 2008 he was number 9 in the independent law magazine The Firm's Power 100.

He was the Scottish organizer for the Anti-Nazi League and led a march in 1993 to the London headquarters of the British National Party. He also worked freelancing with BBC Radio Scotland 'Ghettoblasters' and then as a race officer before going to Strahclyde School of Law in 1997 as a mature student on the accelerated degree. In November 2014 he was invited to be the guest speaker at the Law School's 50th Celebration dinner.

Anwar became a solicitor in 2000 and became part of a Glasgow-based partnership, before branching out on his own in 2006 and setting up Aamer Anwar & Co, Solicitors & Notaries [1] Several nominations for Criminal Lawyer of the Year by The Law Awards of Scotland have resulted in Anwar winning in both 2005, 2006 and 2014.

Aamer Anwar received the Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards, the Professional Excellence Award as a ‘recognition of his outstanding achievements and the huge impact his work has had UK wide.[2]

In 2013 he was a finalist for the Services to Law at the British Muslim Awards sponsored by Accounts Management Services along with Stephen Lawrence Family lawyer Imran Khan. The winner was chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal (CCPS)

In 2014 he was awarded the Scottish Muslim Award—Al Adl Ihsan for Public Services (Adl and Ihsan are Arabic terms for evoking the importance of justice and charity in Islam). He was given the award by Baroness Syeda Warsi on May 11, 2014 [3]

Legal career[edit]

He has often represented clients in high profile controversial criminal cases with political or human rights implications. He is best known for his campaigns for justice after the killing of Surjit Singh Chhokar and of Glasgow schoolboy Imran Khan.

Anwar campaigned on behalf of the family of murdered Indian waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar, which became known as the Scottish Stephen Lawrence case and which led to a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system and several inquiries. In the latter case, Anwar led the justice campaign on behalf of the Chhokar family. He also served on the Justice Minister's Stephen Lawrence Steering Group.

In 2012 following the reform of the double jeopardy law he approached the Lord Advocate on behalf of the Chhokar family to request that the case be reopened and reinvestigated. On the 2nd of May 2014, Aamer Anwar and the Chhokar family met with the Lord Advocate who confirmed that following reinvestigation by Police Scotland the Crown was seeking to have the original acquittals of three men set aside in an application to the Appeal Court for a retrial over the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar.[4]

In 2004 Aamer was the solicitor in the successful Ice Cream Wars appeal, which saw his client 'TC' Campbell cleared after 20 years

He is noted for his controversial remarks in the aftermath of the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack, in which he claimed that 'That there is no difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber, the effects are still the same', and also that notions of multiculturalism had failed in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK due to widespread rejection of elements of British popular culture, specifically "binge drinking and Big Brother", amongst young people within the Muslim community.[5]

In 2008 he faced allegations of contempt of court in the light of a complaint by the presiding judge in the case, Lord Carloway, because of his disparaging remarks about the jury after the trial and conviction of Mohammed Siddique in the High Court of Justiciary. He was found not guilty of contempt, but Lord Osborne said the statements from the lawyer "embody angry and petulant criticism of the outcome of the trial process and a range of political comments concerning the position of Muslims in our society".[citation needed]

He was the first lawyer in the UK to be put on trial for contempt of court for comments he made on behalf of his client at the end of a trial. In July 2008 he was acquitted, having a legal team led by the late Paul McBride QC, as well as legal submissions in his support from Michael Mansfield QC, Helena Kennedy QC. He was supported by the trade unions and civil liberty organizations, including Liberty, who also backed his case in the High Court. There was widespread condemnation of what was perceived to be an attack on free speech and the rights of a campaigning lawyer.[6]

The late author Iain Banks in support of Anwar in 2007 stated:

“Aamer Anwar is a symbol of freedom. There is a need to speak out when the right to dissent and the right to speak the truths that need to be spoken are under threat. I’d urge anyone who believes in fairness and simple human decency to support him. The Scottish judicial system has enough to be ashamed of after the Lockerbie trial; let there be no more injustice in its name.”

He was cleared of doing anything wrong by the Law Society. He was ultimately vindicated following the successful appeal of Mohammed Atif Siddique in February 2010, which led to his release and the quashing of his conviction under Section 58 - Collection of information of the Terrorism Act, which was described as a miscarriage of justice by the appeal court.[7]

In 2008 he was runner-up in the election for Rector of the University of Glasgow, losing the race for the position to Charles Kennedy.[8]

In 2010 he acted as solicitor for Tommy Sheridan in HM Advocate v Sheridan and Sheridan. After Sheridan sacked his advocate he was retained as amicus curiae.

On 31 January 2011 a complaint was made by Anwar, following confirmation from Vodafone that there had been attempts to access his voicemail prior to the start of the Sheridan trial.[9]

In July 2011 Anwar presented a dossier along with Tom Watson MP to Strathclyde Police into alleged criminality at the News of the World, allegations of phone hacking, data breaches and corruption in the Police. This led to full scale police inquiry by Strathclyde Police termed Operation Rubicon and the subsequent arrest of Andrew Coulson and Bob Bird Scottish Editor of News of the World.[10]

In April 2013, it was announced that Anwar would represent National Collective in possible legal action put forward by the representatives of oil company Vitol. Vitol's representatives threatened legal action against National Collective, a political organisation supporting Scottish independence, for being "grossly defamatory" after linking Ian Taylor, their CEO and a major Better Together donor, to questionable deals in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Serbia. The organisation stated that they "will not be bullied or silenced" and that their website is "offline only as a temporary measure for a few days".[11][12]

On 2 October 2012 he gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee arguing against allowing cameras into criminal trials.

On 5 June 2014 it was announced that Aamer Anwar was instructed by Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi's family who was convicted of the worst single act of mass murder on British soil in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 over Lockerbie. Whilst the Libyan Al-Megrahi died from cancer following his compassionate release from Prison an application was being lodged with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission seeking to review his case and return it to the appeal court as a 'miscarriage of justice'. Aamer Anwar was also instructed by 24 British relatives of passengers who died on the flight including Dr. Jim Swire.[13]

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