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Exclusive: Bakers partner once sentenced to five years' hard labour
03 June 2016
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RollOnFriday can reveal that a Baker & McKenzie partner was once convicted of crimes against the state in Myanmar and sentenced to five years' hard labour.

Joel Greer is a partner in Bakers' Tokyo office, which he joined last year from White & Case. He specialises in dispute resolution with a focus on power plants, but 18 years ago he was a Yale Law School student known as the "activist's activist".

After becoming heavily involved with Greenpeace in the early 1990s, Greer joined a human rights goodwill mission to Myanmar in 1998 to raise awareness of the massacre which took place in 1988 when democratic uprisings were crushed brutally. Greer and two other activists handed out cards in the capital, Yangon, which read "We are your friends from around the world. We have not forgotten you. We support your hopes for human rights and democracy. 8888 [a reference to the Aug. 8, 1988, uprising]. Don't forget. Don't give up". When an eager crowd gathered to take the cards and threatened to draw too much attention, Greer and his colleagues jumped in a taxi. Unfortunately a police officer who had been drawn to the commotion climbed in the cab and redirected it to a police station.

    How it might have looked

After being detained for a week, Greer and his fellow activists were convicted in a one day trial of violating Myanmar's Emergency Provisions Act and sentenced to five years' hard labour. In common with many convicted foreigners, they were deported, but Greer remained in Asia to write a 20,000 word report on the overlap between human rights and environmental abuses. And, eventually, become a biglaw partner. Speaking to a local paper at the time, Greer said that Non-Burmese nationals were treated radically differently than Burmese citizens, and that "our expectation was that this would not be stress-free, but we were not afraid for ourselves personally".

Greer's remarkable adventure is missing from his firm profile, though it's not completely out of place at a firm where fellow lawyer Tom Firestone once escaped the clutches of the FSB. Bakers declined to comment on the human rights crusader in its midst.

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