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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 11:01 GMT
'Klan man' jailed for racist menace
Alan Beshella
Alan Beshella cannot now go within 15 yards of the shop
A former Ku Klux Klan member who racially harassed an Asian shopkeeper has been jailed for three months.

Alan Beshella, who joined the organisation in California, was also banned from going near the store in Maesteg after menacing the owner following the 11 September attacks.

The judge at Cardiff Crown Court said Beshella, 52, threateningly quizzed Mohammed Nawaz over his religious beliefs at his shop in the south Wales town.

Mohammed Nawaz
Fear is prompting shopkeeper Mohammed Nawaz to sell up
Mr Nawaz is selling his business after becoming fearful for his family's safety.

South Wales Police welcomed the verdict and said the case illustrated the force's commitment to tackling racism.

The former KKK Grand Dragon - a leadership title adopted by the group - who lives in Tonna Road, Maesteg, was convicted of racially aggravated assault on the basis of psychological injury.

Magistrates in Port Talbot earlier heard London-born Beshella joined the Ku Klux Klan when he lived in America before settling in the Welsh valleys 13 years ago.

They heard Mr Nawaz and his family were in the process of selling up after Beshella twice called at his shop to say: "I'm the Ku Klux Klan man."

Subtle threats

Prosecutor Andrew Smith said: "It was a very subtle, measured and premeditated course of action which was as effective in terrifying Mr and Mrs Nawaz as a physical assault.

Mr Nawaz said: "Beshella wanted to know my opinions about the attack on America.


It was a very subtle, measured and premeditated course of action which was as effective as a physical assault

Prosecutor Andrew Smith
"He wanted to know about the Muslim religion and how punishment should be dealt with in the Islamic faith and he wanted me to get a copy of the Koran.

"Then he said: 'Do you know who I am?'" and he told me he was Alan Beshella, where he lived and that he was from the Ku Klux Klan.

"He said to my wife: 'Kill the Jews,' and left.

Nickname

"I felt frightened and confused - mostly I was frightened for the safety of my children."

Beshella visited the couple again later that month with a friend.

Beshella was arrested by police after leaving the shop and off-licence in the village of Caerau near Bridgend.

A Muslim holy script
Muslims settled in Wales in the 19th Century

Beshella told police: "I was just being honest and told him I was the Klan Man; it's my nickname.

Susan Lewis, defending, said: "He is extremely upset that the shopkeeper and his family were put in fear.

"At one stage, he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan for about a year when he was living in California.

"No-one there took exception to him belonging to this political organisation - he now thinks that joining that organisation was the most stupid thing he ever did."

Petition started

Half of Beshella's three-month sentence is suspended, so he should be free in six weeks.

The jail term was branded a "disgrace" by members of the Bridgend Coalition Against Racism.

The organisation had called for a three- or four-year sentence.

Beshella denied racially aggravated harassment but was found guilty.

Mohammed Nawaz and his family are being backed by a group called the Bridgend Coalition against Racism.

The group has started a petition, asking people in and around Maesteg to support the shopkeeper.

But despite this support, Mr Nawaz has decided to move somewhere where there is a larger Asian community.

After the case Mr Nawaz's wife Nusrat said: "We're now putting the shop on the market and moving, because he could come back.

"Beshella only came here because we are Muslims."

Superintendent Brian Greaves, South Wales Police divisional commander, said: "The case fully illustrates (our) commitment to tackling racism in our communities.

"The public of south Wales can be assured that we will not tolerate such behaviour and will deal effectively with those who seek to frighten or intimidate any member of the community."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Rebecca John
"Alan Beshella arrived at court confident he wasn't going to jail. He was wrong."
BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"After Twin Towers bombing there was a racist backlash"
See also:

28 Jan 02 | Wales
Tackling Valleys racist crime
24 Jan 02 | UK
'My days as a white man'
16 May 00 | UK Politics
Row over race crime figures
18 May 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Multicultural Wales
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