Who? Tasnime Akunjee, criminal defence solicitor at Farooq Bajwa & Co, Mayfair, London.
Why is he in the news? Represents a 15-year-old Syrian refugee who made national headlines after footage emerged of him being allegedly attacked by bullies at his Huddersfield school. Akunjee’s client is preparing to sue Facebook and English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) over a social media video.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The litigation contemplated involves an action for defamation being brought against both Mr Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and Facebook as co-defendants to the same proceedings. Mr Lennon decided to spread defamatory remarks about my client. He made and disseminated these remarks on the social media platform provided by Facebook. As a result of Lennon’s false remarks and their wide online circulation, my client became the focus of messages of hate from the extreme right-wing; he and his family were forced to relocate as a result.’
Yaxley-Lennon did not respond to a request for comment. Facebook says it has a clear set of community standards that make clear that hate speech is not allowed on the site. A page or person is removed if they repeatedly break the community standards.
Dealing with the media: ‘The media coverage has brought the darker attentions of Tommy Robinson and his ‘Alt-Right’ following in the webosphere. To attempt to halt the offensive onslaught, we formulated a notice of intended proceedings and used Twitter to disseminate it widely. The strategy was designed to demonstrate to the social media community that where a statute is contravened a real-world consequence can follow.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘My grandfather mandated my father to help the poor and needy. My father became a medical doctor and a philanthropist; I chose to carry on the tradition in a different profession.’
Career high: ‘In 2015 I was tasked with negotiating the release and repatriation of a British lady who had found herself in the custody of al-Qaida in Syria. The task required negotiating with the political, administrative and security apparatus of two countries as well as making on-the-ground representations to militia commanders in Syria. Our negotiations succeeded, and the lady was eventually released into our custody. Her ordeal left her requiring an immediate blood transfusion. Mercifully she survived and was reunited with her family.’
Career low: ‘Working in a “factory firm” for nine months, literally in a cubicle, where the company ethos was “profits over effectiveness”.’