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Indian lawyer fights racial abuse

M Arani, defending a terror suspect, has been charged with being a racist bully, writes Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2005 20:48 IST

An Indian lawyer is fighting a race discrimination case at an employment tribunal against Mudassar Arani, who is the solicitor for a terror suspect for a UK bomb plot. The suspect has given evidence in support of his solicitor.

Ms Arani, representing terror suspect Omar Rehman, who also represents cleric Abu Hamza, has been accused of being a foul-mouthed racist bully who exploits poorly paid employees.

Her former paralegal Jitendra Sharma, 40, has told Watford Employment Tribunal that Arani made his life a misery because he was Indian.

Mr Sharma, who ran his own law firm in India for nine years before qualifying as a solicitor in Britain alleges Arani told him all Indians were "useless bastards" and made him work mainly as a typist at a desk in the corridor.

"'F*** off' became a normal saying in her dealings with me," he told the tribunal. "She told me she did not like people born and brought up in India as they were useless," he added.

Mr Sharma, who is suing her firm Arani and Co for race discrimination and unpaid wages, claims she humiliated him while they were representing seven terror suspects being held at London's Paddington Green Station in August last year.

He said she paid him three times less than other solicitors of his standing during his time at Southall, West London-based Arani and Co.

Rehman has given evidence to the tribunal via video link from high security Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes.

He is on remand facing charges of conspiracy to murder. Seven other terror suspects, believed to be part of the same group, face the same charge. Rehman said he was "astonished" Mr Sharma was suing Ms Arani's firm after telling him she was a "good boss".

He said it had soon become "obvious" that Mr Sharma had no experience or expertise in criminal or terrorism work.

He said: "I'm astonished that he is taking this step. He was indebted to her for all of the invaluable experience he was getting and she had afforded him employment that nobody would have given him.

"In our legal consultations at Paddington we discussed some of his career plans and he expressed his gratefulness for being employed by such a company as Arani and Co.

"I addition he said that he believed Ms Arani to be a good boss. He used the words 'good boss'."

He also said: "It is with great sadness that I note that Mr Sharma has decided to sue Ms Arani. Ms Arani has never in our presence been rude or abusive in relation to Mr Sharma, either in his presence or behind his back.

"I did not see Ms Arani humiliate, belittle or swear at Mr Sharma or anyone else. Ms Arani was being very courteous, polite and kind offering a word of encouragement and helping hand to staff if required."

Rehman said the detainees had actually complained to Ms Arani because Mr Sharma was such a "joker" and behaved unprofessionally at the police station.

He said: "He was known as a joker at the police station. Mr Sharma was going around joking all the time. What he failed to understand was that our lives were at stake. He was completely unprofessional and regarded the whole thing as a joke."

Mr Rehman, who had 13 different interviews at Paddington Green, complained that Mr Sharma never gave him any useful advice and was instead reciting poetry and cracking crude jokes. The detainees instead relied on Ms Arani to represent them at the police station and later during court appearances.

He said they only continued seeing Mr Sharma at the police station because they were desperate for company. He said: "Our position at the police station was quite vulnerable. The way in which we were being treated was quite bad. Just to see anybody or to speak to somebody was a relief to us anyway regardless of whether it was legal or social." The firm and Ms Arani deny Mr Sharma's claims. The hearing continues.

First Published: Aug 24, 2005 18:08 IST