Aamer Anwar

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Aamer Anwar
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Personal details
Born (1967-12-30) 30 December 1967 (age 51)
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow
University of Strathclyde
University of Liverpool

Aamer Anwar (born 30 December 1967) is a Scottish-based lawyer of Pakistani background, and the current Rector of the University of Glasgow. He campaigned on behalf of the family of murder victim Surjit Singh Chhokar and in 2018 represented Professor Clara Ponsatí, a Catalan politician whom Spain was pursuing for charges of sedition and rebellion.[1] He was an active participant in the Stop the War Coalition, campaigned against the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles and for the closure of the Dungavel Detention Centre for failed asylum seekers.

Early life, education and student activism[edit]

Anwar was born in England and moved to Scotland in 1986 to study mechanical engineering at the University of Glasgow for a future in the Royal Air Force.[2] He became a student activist and led a campaign against alleged racism at the city's Dental Hospital. This eventually saw the introduction of anonymous marking across all faculties at the University.[3]

He left engineering to study sociology and politics, and was still a student when, in 1991, he was arrested by police officers for illegally flyposting on Ashton Lane. During his arrest he was pushed to the ground, and had his teeth chipped. Anwar successfully took civil action against Strathclyde Police. In 1995, Sheriff Evans found that one officer had assaulted Anwar and that it appeared to be a racially motivated attack; Anwar was awarded £4,200 in compensation and the policeman was suspended.[4]

Anwar was criticised by the ruling Sheriff in regards to the release of “bloated confrontational material” surrounding the case with the Sheriff stating the allegations of racism did not influence his findings.[5]

Anwar became a solicitor in 2000 initially as part of a Glasgow-based partnership, before founding Aamer Anwar & Co, Solicitors & Notaries in 2006.[6]

Legal career[edit]

Surjit Singh Chhokar[edit]

Anwar came to prominence campaigning on behalf of the family of Surjit Singh Chhokar, a waiter who was murdered in November 1998 in Overtown, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. The case had some parallels to the Murder of Stephen Lawrence in England which led to a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system and several inquiries. In the latter case, Anwar led the campaign on behalf of the Chhokar family. He also served on the Scottish Executive's Stephen Lawrence Steering Group, set up in 2000.[7][8]

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 2 May 2014 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.[9]

In October 2016, after a five-week trial, Ronnie Coulter was found guilty of the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar.[10] Following the conviction, Police Scotland acknowledged the role of the campaigning by the Chhokar family and Anwar.[11]

'TC' Campbell[edit]

In 2004 Anwar was the solicitor for 'TC' Campbell and successfully appealed to have Campbell's murder conviction overturned; Campbell had spent 20 years in jail for the murders that were known as the Ice Cream Wars.[12]

Tommy Sheridan[edit]

In 2010 he acted as solicitor for Tommy Sheridan in HM Advocate v Sheridan and Sheridan. Sheridan sacked Anwar following a bitter dispute between the two men over the lawyer's refusal to stop writing a column for a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch.[13]

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.[14]

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 and data breaches and corruption in the police, as part of the wider News International phone hacking scandal. This led to a full-scale police inquiry by Strathclyde Police termed Operation Rubicon and the subsequent arrest of Andy Coulson and Bob Bird, Scottish Editor of News of the World.[15]


On 2 October 2012 he gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee arguing against allowing cameras into criminal trials.[16]

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 but this did not come to court.[17][18]

On 5 June 2014 it was announced that Anwar had lodged an appeal on behalf of the family of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, 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. The Libyan Al-Megrahi died from cancer following his compassionate release from Prison while 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.[19]

In September 2014, Anwar began representing the family of Jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood, a 20-year-old woman from Glasgow who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[20]

In 2017 he was instructed by the family of Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old man who died in 2015 after being restrained by police officers. The family met the Lord Advocate, believing that Pirc's investigation had been fundamentally flawed.[21]

In February 2017 he represented the family of murder victim Emma Caldwell, when they met the Lord Advocate who had directed a second murder inquiry that was underway.[22]

He also represented two now former Scottish National Party MPs with legal problems: first Michelle Thomson who was later cleared of all charges and currently her colleague Natalie McGarry.[23] Anwar has said that Alex Salmond wanted him to run for Westminster.


He was an active participant in the Stop the War Coalition, and campaigned against the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles.

He has been a longstanding critic of the Dungavel Detention Centre for failed asylum seekers.[24]

He is a supporter of the Time for Inclusive Education campaign for LGBT inclusive education in Scottish schools.[25]

Rector of the University of Glasgow[edit]

In 2008 Anwar was runner-up in the election for Rector of the University of Glasgow, losing the race for the position to Charles Kennedy.[26] Edward Snowden followed Kennedy for a three-year term of office which finished in 2017, when Anwar was again nominated for this role.[27] On 21 March he was announced as having been elected by the students with over 54% of the vote (4458), beating the eleven other candidates including High Court Judge Lady Hazel Cosgrove who came second with 1409 votes, whilst political speaker and writer Milo Yiannopoulos came fourth with 533 votes. All the candidates were eliminated in the first round due to the 'landslide' result in Anwar's favour.[28] He took office on 31 March[29] and was installed at a ceremony on 19 April.[30]

Awards and honours[edit]

Anwar was named Solicitor of the Year in the Herald's Law Awards of Scotland 2018. Anwar was named "Lawyer of the Year" at the fourteenth Scottish Legal Awards in March 2017.[31][32] He had been named "Solicitor of the Year" in the Herald's Law Awards of Scotland in November 2016.[33] At the same awards, his firm had also been a finalist for Criminal Law Firm of the Year.

His firm picked up "Criminal Law Firm of the Year" at the Law Awards of Scotland in 2006 and again in 2014.[34][35][36]

At the Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards in 2007, he received the Professional Excellence Award as a 'recognition of his outstanding achievements and the huge impact his work has had UK wide'.[37] In December 2007 the law magazine The Firm placed him ninth in a feature of top 100 most powerful and influential people in the Scottish justice system and legal profession.[38]

In January 2013, he was nominated for the Services to Law award at the British Muslim Awards.[39]

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 11 May 2014 [40]


Anwar made controversial statements in the aftermath of the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack, in which he claimed, "That there is no difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber, the effects are still the same". In further remarks he argued that there was a moral equivalence between the 9/11 hijackers and the United States when they bomb innocent civilians. He also argued that Muslims felt alienated because of a Western "binge drinking and Big Brother" culture.[41]

In 2008 he faced allegations of contempt of court in the light of a complaint by the presiding judge in the case, Lord Carloway, after Anwar directly attacked the jury following the trial and conviction of Mohammed Siddique in the High Court of Justiciary.[42] It was the first hearing of its kind in the UK.[43] 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. Iain Banks, the author, joined Labour politician Tony Benn, Respect MP George Galloway, Bashir Maan, convener of the Muslim Council of Scotland and human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce, among others to argue that such a prosecution was detrimental to free speech.[44]

While finding Anwar's comments to be "misleading" Lord Osborne did not find him in contempt of court. However he still strongly criticised Anwar's behaviour stating that statements from the lawyer were politically motivated and largely consisted of "angry and petulant criticism".[45]


  1. ^ Baynes, Chris (10 March 2018). "Exiled Catalan government minister moves to Scotland after fleeing and sedition charges in Spain". Independent. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ Laing, Gordon (1 July 2004). "In self defence". The Firm Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  3. ^ "University of Glasgow - Explore - Facts and figures - Who's who - Aamer Anwar". www.gla.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Policeman suspended after race bias ruling". The Independent. 22 September 1995. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  5. ^ The Herald. 22 September 1995 https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12085878.pc-suspended-as-racist-victim-awarded-4200/. Retrieved 3 January 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "Glasgow Lawyers". www.glasgow-lawyer.com.
  7. ^ "Wallace 'slow to act' over racism". BBC News. BBC. 26 June 2000.
  8. ^ Watson, Craig (12 May 2001). "Researchers admit flaws in race study". The Herald. Newsquest. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Chhokar murder: Crown wants to retry three men acquitted of killing". BBC News. BBC. 2 May 2014.
  10. ^ "A good day for justice". The Herald. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  11. ^ Paterson, Kirsteen (6 October 2016). "Justice at last: Ronnie Coulter found guilty of Surjit Singh Chhokar murder after family's 17-year fight". Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Ice Cream Wars pair win freedom". BBC News. BBC. 17 March 2004.
  13. ^ https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tommy-sheridan-fires-aamer-anwar-over-link-to-murdoch-1-2213469adhttps://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/tommy-sheridan-fires-aamer-anwar-over-link-to-murdoch-1-2213469.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Mackay, Neil (31 January 2011). "Sheridan solicitor: newspaper hacked my phone messages". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  15. ^ Cusick, James; Milmo, Cahal (26 August 2011). "More than 120 police investigate Murdoch empire's operations". The Independent. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  16. ^ "Official Report: Justice Committee: Tuesday 2 October 2012". Scottish Parliament. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  17. ^ Carrell, Severin (10 April 2013). "Yes Scotland: EuroMillions winners help bankroll independence campaign". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  18. ^ "National Collective". Facebook. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  19. ^ Harrison, Jody (5 June 2014). "Megrahi family back new bid to clear his name". Herald Scotland. Newsquest. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  20. ^ "Parents of IS-linked Aqsa Mahmood feel 'betrayed'". BBC News. 5 September 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Probe into Sheku Bayoh's death 'was fundamentally flawed'". STV News. 8 February 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Family appeal to killer in 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell". BBC News. 2 February 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  23. ^ http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/14111620.Face_to_Face__Aamer_Anwar_on_finding_God__racism__politics_and_jealous_rivals_he_can_t_trust. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ Martin, Lorna (25 July 2004). "Anger at asylum suicide". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  25. ^ Association, Press (7 December 2016). "Top Lawyer Calls On Scottish Government To Tackle Homophobic Bullying In Schools". Heart. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Rectorial Election result" (Press release). University of Glasgow. February 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  27. ^ Harrison, Jody (1 March 2017). "Aamer Anwar to run for Glasgow University rector position". The Herald. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Solicitor Aamer Anwar elected rector of Glasgow University after seeing off challenge from controversial US journalist Milo Yiannopoulos". The Herald. 21 March 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  29. ^ "University of Glasgow students elect a new Rector" (Press release). University of Glasgow. 21 March 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  30. ^ "Aamer Anwar installed as University of Glasgow". The Herald. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  31. ^ "Campaigning solicitor wins top prize". The Times. 31 March 2017.
  32. ^ "Clyde & Co, Anwar and McCluskey lead 2017 Scottish Legal Awards". The Journal. Law Society of Scotland. 31 March 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  33. ^ "In pictures: Scotland's legal industry celebrated at awards night in Glasgow". The Herald. 25 November 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  34. ^ Rogerson, Paul (18 September 2006). "The winner is Harper Macleod Firm scoops coveted gong at Law Awards 2006". The Herald. Newsquest. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  35. ^ "Criminal Law Firm of the Year, 2014". Law Awards of Scotland. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  36. ^ Cameron, Greig (24 July 2014). "Diverse range of firms and individuals are through to the finals of law awards". The Herald. Newsquest. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  37. ^ "Lloyds TSB Northern Jewels Crowned". Skiddle.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  38. ^ "Scotland's Legal Who's Who". The Firm Magazine. 3 December 2007. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  39. ^ "Winners honoured at British Muslim Awards". Asian Image. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  40. ^ "Scottish Muslim Awards". Facebook.
  41. ^ Stewart, Stephen (9 July 2007). "Terror debate raises stark views". BBC News.
  42. ^ "Contempt hearing on terror case". BBC News. 6 November 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  43. ^ "Me and my big mouth". The Sunday Herald. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  44. ^ "Treatment of terror trial lawyer 'is an attack on freedom of speech'". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  45. ^ "Judgment in the Aamer Anwar contempt case". The Herald. Newsquest. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2015.

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