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Vol. 72/No. 6      February 11, 2008

UK protests will back lawyer arrested for speaking
in defense of client jailed under Terrorism Act
EDINBURGH, Scotland—Defenders of freedom of speech are organizing protests here and in Glasgow in support of attorney Aamer Anwar, charged with “contempt of court” because of a statement he made after the conviction of one of his clients on “terrorism” charges. His trial is expected in March.

Anwar’s client, British-born Mohammad Atif Siddique, then 21, was jailed for eight years under the Terrorism Act last October 23. He had been convicted of possessing and distributing “terrorist material” over the Internet. Under covert surveillance by the British security services for several months, Siddique was detained at Glasgow Airport in April 2006 by Special Branch officers as he and his uncle were about to board a flight to Pakistan to visit family. Siddique’s laptop computer, passport, and plane tickets were seized before he was released.

A week later, dozens of armed cops raided his family home, arresting him and tying up the wrists of his parents and three brothers while searching their house.

In a Sept. 17, 2007, statement Anwar said that Siddique “was found guilty of doing what millions of young people do every day, looking for answers on the internet… . [He] states that he is not a terrorist and is innocent of the charges and it is not a crime to be a young Muslim angry at global injustice.”

“The prosecution was driven by the state and carried out in an atmosphere of hostility after the [June 2007] Glasgow Airport attack, and ending on the anniversary of 9/11,” the statement continued. “In the end, Atif Siddique did not receive a fair trial and I will be considering an appeal.”

On November 6 Lord Carloway, the judge who convicted Siddique, issued the contempt charges against Anwar. The judge claimed Anwar’s statement was “at least in part untrue and misleading,” according to the Scotsman newspaper. Carloway also said the statement appeared to be an “unjustified” attack on the trial process and on “the integrity of the jury.”

A letter protesting the charges against Anwar as “an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech” was sent to the Scotsman November 7. It was signed by author Iain Banks; Labour politician Tony Benn; Respect party MP George Galloway; Muslim Council of Scotland convener Bashir Mann; and human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce, among others.

In recent months two other people in the United Kingdom have been convicted under the Terrorism Act. In December Samina Malik, 23, was found guilty of owning “terrorist manuals” and sentenced to 18 months’ supervision and 100 hours of unpaid community work. The capitalist media branded her “the lyrical terrorist” because of a pseudonym she had used on the Internet. On January 9 dentist Sohail Qureshi was sentenced to four years in jail for “preparing to engage in acts of terrorism and possessing items useful to terrorists.” He had pleaded guilty to the charges. The police and prosecution are calling the four years “lenient” and are pressing for a harsher sentence.
Related articles:
U.S. court gives Padilla 17 years on ‘terror’ conspiracy charge  
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