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Lawyer who prosecuted soldiers gets death threats

Phil Shiner, from Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said that every day someone calls the firm to dish out vitriol

Phil Shiner from Public Interest Lawyers in Birmingham

The behind the hugely expensive attempt to prosecute British Army soldiers for abusing prisoners has revealed his law firm has been targeted for death threats and abuse.

Phil Shiner, from Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said that every day someone calls the firm to dish out vitriol.

The 57-year-old said that the “bullying” wouldn’t put him off pursuing what he describes as justice.

He said: “They will phone my office, sometimes daily. They’ll shout ‘****’ to whoever answers the phone. I’ve had to train my team to stay calm and put the phone down.”

When asked about death threats, he says he has received: “Plenty, in letters, in packages in the post, in emails. People ask me, ‘Isn’t that what Pat Finucane did, he didn’t take the threats seriously either?’”

Mr Finucane was a Belfast solicitor who took on the British Army in human rights cases in Northern Ireland, who was shot dead in front of his family.

Pledging to fight on, father of five Mr Shiner said: “There’s something in me that says, ‘I’m not going to be bullied. They’ve picked on the wrong person to bully.’”

Many have accused the firm of seeking to make big profits on the back of these cases, including one where soldiers were accused of murdering 20 Iraqis. This key claim was abandoned due to lack of evidence, but the inquiry itself cost more than £22 million.

Last week the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced it would launch a preliminary examination of claims that British troops committed war crimes after the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Shiner said: “It’s a real breakthrough that vindicates ten years’ hard work. I’ve put in hundreds of thousands of hours into the ICC complaint at my own expense and my team’s expense.

“We’ve spent a small fortune putting it together. But we’re doing it for free.

“Why? Because we might be a dying breed, because we’re lawyers of principle. The idea I’ve enriched myself doing this sort of work is nonsense.”

The lawyer has been accused of being unpatriotic, a claim he strongly refutes: “What nonsense. I acted for the Gurkhas from 2002 onwards. In one case I secured £40 million in compensation for the Gurkhas captured by the Japanese. The Gurkhas were excluded by the Government from the compensation scheme. I got them compensation.”

He’s acting for one of the mothers of the six British military policemen murdered in Iraq in 2003. And he’s represented the Gulf War veterans affected by Gulf War syndrome.

“The list of people I’ve acted for who are serving or ex-serving military personnel is a long one.”

 

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