THE TRIAL of six Asian men from Burnley who defended their community against racists was set to finish this week. The court in Preston has heard powerful arguments about how Nazi British National Party members terrorised Burnley in June last year. Tariq Saddique, Mohammed Bashir, Asif Khan, Mohammed Nawaz and a 17 year old who cannot be identified are pleading not guilty to the charge of violent disorder. One 18 year old has felt forced to plead guilty.
Eyewitnesses have spoken up in their defence. Shahid Malik, a member of Labour's national executive, said in court last week that he joined the Asians who gathered in Burnley as he too had heard rumours of Nazi attacks. He reminded the jury about a savage attack on an Asian taxi driver and said Asians heard the Nazis' next target was a mosque.
He spoke up for the defendants, saying, 'They did not go out to fight. They just wanted to defend their community.' Burnley Labour councillor Paul Moore added that he and his family were as nervous as the Asian residents about the Nazis. Pensioner Valerie Goss praised one of the defendants, Mohammed Nawaz, for his help that day.
Valerie was lost and Mohammed had knocked on her car window to ask if she was OK in the midst of the disorder. He got into her car to direct her back to the main road. 'I wasn't worried. In fact, I was glad of his help. He was a Good Samaritan to me,' she told the court. Asad Rehman, a full time worker for Amnesty International, explained how the Asians in Burnley were 'a community under siege'.
He told the court that, having been born and brought up in the area, it was the worst threat of racist violence he could remember. The prosecution wants the all-white jury to rule that the Asians were simply involved in 'wanton violence'.
Sentences which don't make sense
THE ASIAN defendants face many years in prison if they are found guilty of violent disorder.
That is completely different to the normal sentence for such actions. For example, a man was jailed in Stoke last week. He had pleaded guilty to throwing missiles at police during a disturbance following a football match last June.
He was charged with affray and common assault rather than violent disorder and was jailed for six months. In contrast Shamroz Khan, a 21 year old from Oldham, was sentenced to ten years last week.
He had pleaded guilty to 'throwing missiles' when the racists threatened his community.