In the Media

Lawyer for defence faces investigation over bribery claims

PUBLISHED July 11, 2007

A solicitor who has built up a lucrative practice specialising in terrorist cases could face a police investigation after the 21/7 trial.

Mudassar Arani, who defended three of the failed suicide bombers convicted on Monday, was accused in open court of attempting to bribe another solicitor?s client.

The court also heard an allegation that her firm Arani & Co had smuggled papers into prison to influence that suspect?s defence case.

The Times has learnt that police are considering investigating Miss Arani on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority confirmed yesterday that it was aware of the allegations against Miss Arani but believed they were first and foremost a matter for the police to investigate. A spokesman said: ?We are monitoring the situation.?

The 21/7 jury was told that the solicitor had sent ?650 in cash gifts to Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, one of the other defendants who was not her client. The jury failed to reach a verdict against him and he will learn today if he faces a retrial.

On the occasion of Eid, an important Muslim festival, she allegedly sent Mr Asiedu a card containing ?50 which was signed ?lots of love Mudassar Arani?.

Stephen Kamlish, QC, Mr Asiedu?s defence counsel, told the jury that the money amounted to ?a disgraceful and sinister act . . . which you may conclude was purely and simply a series of bribes?.

Arani & Co, the solicitor?s firm that earned ?2 million in legal aid fees over the past five years, was also accused of smuggling a typed document to Mr Asiedu inside Belmarsh prison, southeast London, suggesting changes to his defence case statement.

Mr Kamlish said that this action was ?a disgraceful and criminal attempt to pervert the course of justice?.

Miss Arani was not called to appear in the witness box during the trial to counter the allegations.

The Law Society?s rules on professional conduct preclude any gift of money from a solicitor to an inmate. The professional conduct guide states that gifts can ?compromise or impair the independence and integrity of the solicitor and the good repute of the solicitor and the solicitors? profession?.

Miss Arani is no stranger to controversy. She lectures on detainees? rights and has written a leaflet Know Your Rights that was widely distributed by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Published in 2002, it offered advice to Muslims on what to do if subjected to ?harassment? by MI5 or police Special Branch officers.

The leaflet was criticised as ?disgraceful? by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee for advising young Muslims never to talk to the authorities. The Law Society found that there was nothing improper in it.

Last year, one of her employees was jailed at the Old Bailey for smuggling documents out of Belmarsh. Miss Arani was not implicated in that case.

Miss Arani, 43, was a family lawyer with a small practice in Southall, West London, until she rose to prominence as the solicitor for the radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. Her association with him made her the first choice of lawyer for many young Islamists and last year her involvement in terror cases helped to earn her practice ?770,090 in legal aid fees.

Miss Arani is now involved in so many forthcoming terror cases that were she to be charged or suspended from practice several trials could face long delays.

She was born in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and came to Britain in 1972 among the exodus of Asians expelled by the dictator Idi Amin. Her family settled in Brentford, West London, where she is remembered by neighbours as a quiet, shy young girl.

She did well at school and pursued a career in law, passing her solicitors? exams at Guildford College of Law in 1991. By 1997 she had established Arani & Co, the title belying that then it was a one-woman operation.

It was only in the 1990s, Miss Arani said in an interview with the Washington DC-based Jamestown Foundation, that she began to practise her religion and wear the hijab. ?I am not a very religious person,? she said. ?Of course I wear the scarf and I wear it because I have been on haj. In fact I only began to wear it in the late 1990s when I went on haj. I should say also that I have a secular background and had a very secular upbringing. Islam is part of my life but I am not a political person. Islam for me is a way to assert an identity.?

In the same interview she portrayed herself as a victim of state persecution and said she was afraid that she would be targeted for assassination, comparing herself with Pat Finucane, the murdered Belfast solicitor. Miss Arani said: ?I fear that what happened to some of the Irish lawyers might happen to me.?

Miss Arani could not be contacted for comment last night.

Terrorism cases

The firm Arani & Co has dealt with many prominent cases, including the defence of terror suspects

Its website says it undertakes ?national and international work in order to assist in the abuses taking place as a result of the so-called alleged war on terror?

Clients include:

  • Sulayman Zainul-Abidin, the first Muslim to be charged, tried and acquitted in Britain after 9/11
  • Abu Hamza al-Masri in respect of his being deprived of British nationality, and over his extradition
  • A British detainee in Guantanamo Bay
  • Numerous individuals who have been approached by M15