Shayan Ali Suffers From Mental Health Issues: Lawyer Informs UK Court

Lawyer Mahtab Anwar Aziz argues that the cases lacked merit and were strategic lawsuits to gag his clients; however, the court rules against them, directs Raja to pay £10,000 to Brigadier Naseer

Shayan Ali Suffers From Mental Health Issues: Lawyer Informs UK Court

A legal representative for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activist in the UK Shayan Ali, has informed the UK's High Court that the activist suffers from mental health issues as the court heard a defamation case against him.

Lawyer Mahtab Anwar Aziz, from Central Law Chambers (which is owned by Ahmad Jawad and hails from Mandi Bahauddin's Gondal family), is representing Ali and Adil Farooq Raja in cases brought by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and Punjab cabinet member Mariam Aurangzeb and Brigadier (retired) Rashid Naseer (accused by PTI founder Imran Khan as "Mr X" during his public rallies in Pakistan). In the cases, the two UK residents were accused of making false and ludicrous allegations of fostering terrorism, corruption, murder, kidnappings, torture, electoral rigging, repression and censorship against Pakistan's military.

Aziz argued before the court that Ali was vulnerable and suffering from mental health issues. Moreover, he claimed that the cases against his clients lacked merit and were Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) — strategic lawsuits brought by individuals and entities to dissuade their critics from continuing to produce negative publicity.

The lawyer told the court that solicitors at the law firm representing Brig (retired) Naseer were needlessly prolonging the case and that it "should have settled at an early stage to avoid undue stress and financial loss to Ali". Aziz argued that his client, Ali, was "a vulnerable young teenager, who has suffered mental health issues due to the strategically prolonged litigation designed to financially drain Ali's family, who are supporting him as he is a full-time student."

Aziz further argued that the case should not be allowed to continue or be halted for a few months.

Meanwhile, Raja told the court that his life and that of his lawyer were in danger.

The lawyer reportedly told the court that "given the sort of reprehensible activities associated with the current establishment of Pakistan and in particular its "ISI", it is not in the interest of, nor professionally advisable for any solicitor of England and Wales to be taking up a case on behalf of such a claimant, being either the ISI or any of its officers or any member of the PML-N Party as they are well known to subjugate and oppress any journalist, activist, politician or whistle-blower." 

Aziz further claimed that it was "unconscionable" for any solicitor to act for Brigadier (retired) Rashid Naseer, Mariam Aurangzeb, or any ISI officer. 

The court, however, rejected his argument.

The prosecution argued that Raja filed a request to the court to grant a two-year stay in the case because he had hoped that the PTI would win the February 2024 elections and that this case would no longer be pursued after they formed a government.

The lawyer representing Ali and Raja alleged before the court that the February 2024 elections in Pakistan were massively rigged, allegedly "at the behest of the ISI/Army Chief", but the court rejected these allegations.

Aziz then told the court that "There are too many incidents and actions that have occurred in Pakistan to name individually as examples of the authoritarian nature of the ruling establishment" and that questioning, opposing or criticising decisions in any manner allegedly results in (enforced) disappearances, kidnappings, torture and even murder. He pointed to online articles and reports and how Pakistan has been declared as an authoritarian state by The Economist's Intelligence Unit. 

The lawyer also presented before the court a newspaper article which had been published in a reportedly pro-Indian publication in February 2024, which alleged that there was a connection between the ISI and Kenyan intelligence that led to the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya in October 2022. Sharif's murder is still pending investigations and litigation in Pakistani courts.

On Ali's case, Aziz said that the teenager exercised his freedom of speech by protesting in London against the PML-N and raised concerns over the "economic crime in which Aurangzeb was implicated." However, he has been subjected to a defamation claim for simply expressing himself. Hence, the case should be stopped. But the judge did not agree and went ahead with his rulings. 

Aziz and his client Raja were dealt a blow after they lost the meaning hearing, lost their application for a stay, lost their application for security of costs, and got a very short period for anonymity for their witnesses and application to attempt to throw out the Brigadier's case was stayed by the judge. 

The judge stated that he had no evidence before him that convinced him of the case put forth by the defence. The judge ordered Raja to pay the Brigadier £10,000 by April 17, 2024. Raja tried to plead that he did not have money to pay, but the judge pushed ahead with the order.

The case is now expected to go to trial.

Aziz did not reply to questions while answers from Ahamd Jawad Gondal are awaited.