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Chhokar family's appeal for justice 13 years after murder

Family hopes changes to the law on double jeopardy in Scotland mean investigation into the killing of Surjit Singh Chhokar can be reopened.

Surjit Chhokar: Stabbed to death outside his home in Lanarkshire

The sister of an Asian man murdered more than 13 years ago made an emotional appeal for his killers to be brought to justice.

Manjit Sangha said she hoped that changes to the law on double jeopardy in Scotland mean the investigation into the killing of Surjit Singh Chhokar can be reopened.

She said her cancer-stricken father's last wish is for the authorities to bring the killers to court and "give us justice".

Speaking at a press conference inside the Scottish Parliament, she said: "People will have forgotten Surjit's name, yet the darkness of his murder still shadows our lives. All that we have ever asked for is justice.

"The recent changes in the law once again gave us hope. I am extremely sad that my father, Darshan Singh Chhokar, cannot be by my side today.

"This is because he is extremely ill with cancer, but his last wish is that justice can be done.

"We are not here to start a campaign again but my family simply want the Lord Advocate to bring Surjit's killers to court and give us justice."

The waiter was stabbed to death outside the home he shared with his girlfriend in Overtown, Lanarkshire, on November 4, 1998.

Stephen Lawrence

The murder has been compared to the Stephen Lawrence case in London, which sparked controversy after the failure of authorities to secure a conviction for his killing despite the arrests of three men and two subsequent trials.

Reform of Scotland's centuries-old double jeopardy law, which came into force at the end of last year, means the men originally accused of Mr Chhokar's murder could face a retrial.

Two official inquiries were ordered in the wake of the original legal episode. One made allegations of "institutional racism".

Following the publication of the reports in 2001, Colin Boyd QC, who was Lord Advocate at the time, said the Chhokar family had been failed by the police and prosecution services.

The current Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, has agreed to meet the family to discuss reopening the case in light of the legal reform.

The Crown Office has previously said it was too early to speculate how any particular case might be dealt with.

Chhokar family solicitor Aamer Anwar was also at the press conference on Tuesday and he said the killers should not rest easily in their beds.

"The family believes the verdicts were an indictment of the Scottish legal system and that they were betrayed by a justice system because of the colour of their skin," he said.

"Before Surjit was murdered he was not well known, nor did he have high-powered contacts.

"But what he did have was two stubborn parents who despite their grief refuse to be pushed aside as they campaign for justice."

He continued: "Surjit's family never wanted him to be Scotland's Stephen Lawrence, but once again killers were left free to roam the streets.

"A hope for justice is all the Chhokar family live for."

'Rekindled hope'

Mr Anwar said the legal reform, and the recent conviction of two men for the Lawrence murder, has rekindled that hope.

He called for an immediate review of the Chhokar case, with the three previous suspects re-interviewed. Evidence at the last trial should be reviewed and new forensic skills should be used. And he appealed for any member of the public to come forward with new information.

"Just as in the Stephen Lawrence case, the killers of Surjit Singh Chhokar should not rest easy in their beds," he said.

"The family have no desire to re-start the campaign, and trust the Crown Office will be determined to secure justice for the Chhokar family, if at all possible, so that Surjit Singh Chhokar can finally rest in peace."

Former Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable Graeme Pearson, now a Labour MSP, also took part in the press conference.

He said: "The murder of Mr Chhokar is unfinished business. There's no doubt that the unsatisfactory conclusion of the trials 13 years ago has left a bad taste in everybody's mouth.

"The introduction of new legislation which allows double jeopardy and the reconsideration of cases such as the Chhokar case is a breath of fresh air to the legal system and offers an opportunity for the Crown to address a number of cases which lie in the system which need to be resolved. I think Surjit Singh Chhokar is one of those cases."

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