Leading human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar is to fight for the freedom of Black Watch sniper Michael Ross – convicted a decade ago of killing a Bangladeshi waiter in Orkney.
Ross, who was just 15 at the time of the killing on Orkney, was jailed 14 years later on circumstantial evidence alone after a five-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow. He has always maintained his innocence.
Mr Anwar, who has met Ross in prison, said: “I took on this case because after meeting Michael and examining the papers it became clear there were significant concerns with regards to the murder investigation as well as over his conviction.
“We are working to prepare an application seeking to convince the SCCRC (Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission) - to refer Michael’s case back to the appeal court and I would urge any members of the public who have information that would assist the justice campaign to contact my office.”
Campaigners of the “Justice for Michael Ross” – J4MR – group raised over £20,000 in an online crowdfunding campaign to take on the specialist solicitor.
Ross, now a 39-year-old married father-of-two, had lived in Inverness prior to being jailed for life 10 years ago. He was convicted of murdering Shamsuddin Mahmood, 26, by shooting him in the head, while masked, in an Indian restaurant in Kirkwall in 1994, when he as just 15.
In a statement from prison, he said: “[Aamer’s] been very realistic with me and I know it won’t be an easy task to get my case to the next stage.
“I have to trust someone to take my case forward. I believe that he understands the issues with my conviction. It’s hard for me to have any faith in the system, but I do think he’ll try hard for me.”
He added: “I hope that if anyone does have information relevant to my case, that they’ll come forward to Mr Anwar. I am innocent of the murder of Shamsuddin Mahmood and all I ask for is a fair hearing of the true facts of the case.”
Mr Anwar, 50, told Radio Orkney that many people believed the case was a miscarriage of justice, adding that he was convinced there were witnesses with information about the murder who had yet to come forward.
A J4MR spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased that Michael’s case is now with a respected and hard-working human rights lawyer in Aamer Anwar.
“This is thanks to all of Michael’s dedicated supporters who have put their hands in their pockets.
“We’re certain that there are people out there that are in possession of information that could turn the whole situation around.”
“We just want Michael out of prison and home to his family where he can start rebuilding his life. If anyone can help him, we believe it’s Aamer Anwar.”
Ross’s supporters firmly believe he was wrongly convicted, claiming there were “major flaws” in the original case against him and subsequent cold case review in 2006. They say Ross was only 5ft 7in, while witnesses described the killer as 6ft.
When convicted in 2008, a judge who jailed him with a minimum term of 25 years branded him a “vicious coward” for what he described as a race hate crime.