Well-known Indian-origin lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla, whose clients have included the Dalai Lama and Sonia Gandhi, is launching a court case beginning Tuesday in an attempt to end British sanctions on Iran’s biggest private bank.
The case brought by Bank Mellat will see a major legal challenge mounted against the British government’s moves to allow judges to hear evidence behind closed doors in cases of national security.
Legislation proposing the so-called ‘secret courts’ has divided Britain’s coalition government, and Zaiwalla wants a judicial review.
Prime Minister David Cameron backs the Bill, saying: “It isn’t currently possible to use intelligence information in a court of law without sometimes endangering national security.”
Judges have had to free terror suspects because intelligence agencies have refused to make evidence public.
The case will be heard in Britain’s Supreme Court, which considers it so important that it has summoned nine out of its 12 judges to hear it instead of the normal five.
Britain froze Bank Mellat’s moneys of around €152 million in 2009 and barred financial institutions from doing business with it, saying it had helped build Iran’s nuclear programme.
The bank’s legal challenges against the sanctions have failed. Not only secret evidence, but an Appeal Court judgement has been withheld from the bank and the public.
“Sanctions are an important way to enforce international law in a peaceful manner, but they must be subject to the rule of law and require evidence,” said Zaiwalla, who set up the first Asian law firm in London and helped stopped a Sonia Gandhi biopic.