Personality of the week.23 July 2020
Daniel Furner, the laywer who won an Appeal Court ruling for Shamima Begum, displays his gritty and occasionally self-deprecating wit.
Furner says that when he studied law he “hated every moment” and was determined never to practise it. Yet this week the New Zealander became a renowned figure in British law circles, and in the media.
He fought the case for Shamima Begum, the British woman, aged 20, who is detained in Syria after coming to ISIS-held teritory in 2015 and marrying a Dutch jihadi when she was 15.
The Court of Appeal ruled that she must be be enabled to return to the UK to challenge the decision, made by the British Home secretary and confirmed by a tribunal, to remove her British citizenship.
His inspiration, he says, came from Deborah Manning, the New Zealand lawyer who represented a man who had been falsely accused of terrorism on the basis of secret evidence. The accused was interned and threatened with deportation to his home country despite fears that he would be tortured there. “The case looked impossible,” Furner recalls, “but she fought it for years, despite public hostility, and won.”
He says his intention is to use his skills “to speak for those facing the harshest machinery of the state”. Those skills, he says include: “Knowing when to pick a fight and when to hide in the corner.”
Referring to the
you finds it include increasingly hard to gain state funding via legal aid to finance his challenges on behalf of suspected terrorists against the system. He comments drily: “A legal aid lawyer could use a wealthy benefactor — I don’t have one.”
He is used to sticky situations. He says he was once threatened with arrest himself when he went to see a client held at Belmarsh prison, where Britain’s top-security and alleged terrorist prisoners are held. His ‘crime’: trying to give “escape aid” to the prisoner – by offering him a form to apply for a passport.
His remarks were made to the legal section of The Times.