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Alexandra Mackenzie reports
"Surjit's father feels the system has failed to deliver justice"
 real 56k

Saturday, 13 January, 2001, 18:22 GMT
Chhokar backers call for justice
Chhokar rally, glasgow
More than 200 gathered for the rally in Glasgow
Campaigners pressing for a public inquiry into the handling of the case of a murdered Asian man have staged a rally in Glasgow.

The family of the late Surjit Chhokar told the 200-strong gathering on Saturday that they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice by a legal system which was racist.

They and their supporters are unhappy with plans for two behind-closed-doors investigations into the case.

Three men were cleared of Mr Chhokar's murder in two separate trials. That sparked an angry backlash over the handling of the case.

Surjit Singh Chhokar
Mr Chhokar was stabbed through the heart
Bill Speirs, general secretary of the Scottish TUC offered the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign the support of the trade union movement at the rally in the city's Mitchell Theatre.

He promised to urge every trade union branch in the country to pass motions calling for a public inquiry.

SNP MSP for North East Scotland, Shona Robison, said if the Crown Office and the Lord Advocate had "nothing to hide" they should hold the investigations in public.

She told the crowd that she had tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament demanding a debate on whether a public inquiry should take place.

Family concerns

Campaign spokesman Aamer Anwar said the family would not co-operate with any investigation until they felt it was open to public scrutiny.

He accused Mr Wallace and First Minister Henry McLeish of "sheer arrogance" for failing to respond to concerns expressed by the family.

He described the mood at the rally as "very supportive" adding that people had turned up Edinburgh to Aberdeen, including lawyers, trade unionists and lecturers.

"It's now time for the general public to get involved and they will have to take some action," he said.

Mr Chhokar was stabbed outside the house he shared with his girlfriend in Overtown, Lanarkshire, on 4 November 1998.

Independent public inquiry

In a special defence of incrimination, two of the accused blamed a third man - who had already been acquitted of the killing at a previous trial.

That judgment led to a public argument between the trial judge and the then lord advocate, Lord Hardie.

Last November the current Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, ordered two separate inquiries into the death of Mr Chhokar.

Sir Anthony Campbell, Justice of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland, will conduct a probe into the decision making in the case, while advocate Dr Raj Jandoo, will review how prosecutors liased with the Chhokar family.

However, the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign says that only an independent public inquiry can answer the questions raised by the handling of the case.

It has promised to continue that fight and described the rally as an important platform to launch the campaign into 2001.

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