Family of Surjit Singh Chhokar win standing ovation at SNP conference

The Chhokar family and lawyer Aamer Anwar in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
The Chhokar family and lawyer Aamer Anwar in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
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The family of a murdered waiter who endured a 17-year wait for justice were given a standing ovation by delegates at the SNP conference.

The family of a murdered waiter who endured a 17-year wait for justice were given a standing ovation by delegates at the SNP conference.

The mother and sister of Surjit Singh Chhokar were applauded on to the stage in Glasgow, accompanied by their lawyer Aamer Anwar.

Flanked by Gurdev Kaur Chhokar and her daughter Manjit Sangha, he told the conference how the Chhokars were a “humble family who demanded justice as a right and not a privilege”.

Earlier this month Ronnie Coulter was found guilty of murdering Surjit Singh Chhokar in a retrial that was held under double jeopardy laws.

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Coulter, 48, had been acquitted in 1999, but has now been found guilty by majority of stabbing the 32-year-old father-of-two as he returned from work in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, on November 4 1998.

Mr Anwar said the Chhokar case had become “Scotland’s Stephen Lawrence” as he told of the family’s wait for justice.

He said: “On so many occasions I watched a mother and father whose hearts were broken, with no tears left to shed.

“Throughout this period the SNP was unrelenting and unconditional in its support for the Chhokar family.”

The lawyer told the conference: “Surjit was neither a rich nor a powerful man, but he was a loving son, father and brother who was lucky to have two stubborn parents and a sister, Manjit, who refused to be silenced.

“The Chhokar family symbolises for me more than anyone I have met in my lifetime what justice should be about - not the vanity of wigs and gowns or a gentleman’s club, but a humble family who demanded justice as a right and not a privilege.

“The Chhokar family placed victims’ rights at the heart of our modern criminal justice system and that is their cherished legacy for generations to come.”

He added: “I want to close with the words of Mrs Chhokar, who says this. The verdict was not a cause for celebration, and my son will never return and my husband died not seeing justice but I know that my brave husband and my beautiful son will be at peace now that justice has been done, and for that as a mother I will always be indebted to your party for your love, your support, your respect and all that you did to make justice possible.”

The conference passed a motion welcoming the changes to double jeopardy laws which allowed the retrial expressing hope that the conviction of Coulter “will finally give the family the peace they deserve as they come to the end of a very long journey”.