The Crown Office has instructed Strathclyde Police to carry out a fresh investigation into the unsolved murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in North Lanarkshire in 1998 following new ‘double jeopardy’ laws.
The waiter was stabbed to death outside his home in Overtown, Lanarkshire on 4 November 1998. No conviction was ever secured despite three men being charged in two separate trials.
Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow who has championed the case, said: ‘I welcome this announcement. It is a big step in the fight for justice for Mr Chhokar and his family. I have no doubt that Strathclyde Police will work tirelessly on the investigation, however, we need members of the public to do their bit too. If you have any information you think may be useful, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, please contact Strathclyde Police who can deal with people on a confidential basis. For 13 years the Chhokar family has been searching for answers. Every time they have left disappointed and despondent. By opening up an investigation into the murder I am hopeful that justice for Surjit Singh Chhokar and his family is closer than it has ever been before.’
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, met with Mr Chhokar’s family on Thursday 26 January to inform them of the re-opening of the murder inquiry.
Solicitor Aamer Anwar, speaking on behalf of the Chhokar family, said afterwards that: ‘significant hurdles have still to be cross. But the family now believes there is a determination to fight for justice.’
The Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson said: ‘The prosecution service is committed to making use of the powers under the new double jeopardy legislation. The Scottish Parliament, in passing the Act, has clearly stated that the passage of time since an acquittal should be no protection for those for whom there is new and compelling evidence of guilt. We hope that our commitment to the new legislation will give reassurance to victims and their families.’ Other cases are under review for possible action under the new legislation which came into effect last November.
In an emotional press conference recently, Mr Chhokar’s sister, Manjit Sangha said all the family ever asked for was justice.
Following a meeting at the Scottish Parliament with MSP Humza Yousaf, the Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia is gaining support among Members. At the time of writing, 16 MSPs from various parties have signed a motion MSP Yousaf launched.
Having heard Gambian exile Alieu B. Ceesay speak at a fringe meeting at the SNP conference in Inverness recently, Humza invited him to Edinburgh to discuss the issues in detail.
Said journalist Alieu: ‘There was an election last month in The Gambia. The President was re-elected as expected. Opponents were not allowed to campaign except for 11 days before voting. Some opponents were jailed in advance of the election. In recent times people have disappeared, been tortured and killed if they displease the Government. People are afraid even to talk about the election result because they don’t know who might be listening.’
According to Amnesty International there is a ‘climate of fear’ in The Gambia. They recently updated their report on human rights abuse in the sunny, West African country and said the situation was getting worse.
MSP Yousaf commented: ”I will support the call for Human Rights in the Gambia. The country is a part of the Commonwealth and also receives financial support from Europe. It must observe the conventions it has signed and its international obligations, that is why I have put forward this motion. Scotland should be a beacon for human rights across the world and we owe a duty to those who seek asylum in our country.’
The motion reads: ‘That the Parliament expresses concern at what it considers the dire human rights situation in Gambia; understands that the Gambian Government refuses to abide by its international human rights obligations, with cases of enforced disappearance remaining unresolved, perpetrators of unlawful killings not being brought to justice and torture still widely used by security forces; further understands that those who report such abuses, particularly in the media, are in grave danger, and expresses solidarity with the human rights defenders of Gambia, many of whom have been granted asylum in Scotland, in their struggle for basic human rights.
To follow the progress and see who has signed up to this motion check out the following website and insert reference number S4M-01460 or Humza Yousaf’s name: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx