Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 15:43 UK

Judges ponder Anwar contempt case

Aamer Anwar with supporters
Mr Anwar was met at the court by about 60 supporters

Judges are deciding whether human rights solicitor Aamer Anwar committed contempt of court, following a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh.

It follows comments made by Mr Anwar at the end of the trial of a man from Clackmannanshire who had been found guilty of terrorism offences.

The trial judge considered the comments to be contempt of court and referred them to three senior colleagues.

The judges said they wanted to have time to think about their decision.

'Disparaging remarks'

Mr Anwar made his comments following the trial of Mohammed Atif Siddique outside the High Court in Glasgow in September.

Moments after the jury delivered its verdict, he said it was "a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech".

He claimed the computing student's case was heard in an "atmosphere of hostility" in the aftermath of the attack on Glasgow Airport, and alleged the prosecution was "driven by the State".

Lord Carloway, who heard the 19-day trial, accused the solicitor of making "disparaging remarks" about him, the jury, and the prosecution.

He passed the decision on whether contempt of court had been committed to the High Court.

It's a fundamental principle that court hearings which are held in public can be fully and freely commented upon
Paul McBride QC
At a packed hearing before three senior judges in Edinburgh, defence lawyer Paul McBride QC argued this was an "over-reaction" by the trial judge.

"A solicitor, in my respectful submission, may take reasonable steps to deal with his client's reputation following a decision taken by a court," said Mr McBride.

"It's a fundamental principle that court hearings which are held in public can be fully and freely commented upon, whether to compliment and praise, or whether to criticise."

He said an accused person's protestations of innocence, delivered through a solicitor, could not amount to a contempt of court.

Judge Lord Osborne, sitting with Lords Kingarth and Wheatley, said they wanted to have time to think about what has been said and would give their decision in due course.

"It is to be hoped that we will be able to do that in the near future because we realise that it is no doubt painful for Mr Anwar to have this matter undetermined," said Lord Osborne.

'Difficult time'

Speaking outside court, Mr Anwar said he could not comment much because proceedings were still live. But he said: "I would just like to thank all the people who provided support attending court today.

"It's been a very difficult time."

Siddique, from Alva, in Clackmannanshire, was found guilty after trial of providing material on bomb-making and weapons training, and threatening to become a suicide bomber.

He was jailed for eight years in October.

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