Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Kriss Donald (2 July 1988 – 15 March 2004) was a Scottish fifteen-year-old white male who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Glasgow in 2004 by a gang of Asian Muslim men of Pakistani descent, some of whom fled to Pakistan after the crime.Daanish Zahid, Imran Shahid, Zeeshan Shahid, and Mohammed Faisal Mustaq were later found guilty of racially motivated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.A fifth participant in the crime was convicted of racially-motivated violence and jailed for five years.
The case, which featured the first ever conviction for racially motivated murder in Scotland, is cited as an example of the lack of attention the media and society give to white sufferers of racist attacks compared to that given to ethnic minorities, with organisations such as the BBC later admitting failing to cover the case sufficiently.It is also suggested the crime demonstrates how society has been forced to redefine racism so as to no longer exclude white victims.
On 15 March 2004, Donald was abducted from Kenmure Street by five men associated with a local Pakistani gang led by Imran Shahid. The kidnapping was ostensibly revenge for an attack on Shahid at a nightclub in Glasgow city centre the night before by a local white gang, and Donald was chosen as an example of a "white boy from the McCulloch Street area" despite having no involvement in the nightclub attack or in any gang activity. Donald was taken on a 200-mile journey to Dundee and back while his kidnappers made phone calls looking for a house to take him to. Having no success at this, they returned to Glasgow and took him to the Clyde Walkway, near Celtic Football Club's training ground.
There, they held his arms and stabbed him 13 times. He sustained internal injuries to three arteries, one of his lungs, his liver and a kidney. He was doused in petrol and set on fire as he bled to death.
The five men convicted of the abduction and murder were convicted of racially aggravated offences. After the murder, some of Donald's attackers fled the United Kingdom to Pakistan.
The issue of the killing quickly became politicised because of the racial element. After the murder there were reportedly ‘racial tensions’ in the area sufficient to lead to police intervention.
Initially, two men were arrested in connection with the crime. One man, Daanish Zahid, was found guilty of Kriss Donald's murder on 18 November 2004 and is the first person to be convicted of racially motivated murder in Scotland. Another man, Zahid Mohammed, admitted involvement in the abduction of Donald and lying to police during their investigation and was jailed for five years. He was released after serving half of his sentence and returned to court to give evidence against three subsequent defendants.
Three suspects were arrested in Pakistan in July 2005 and extradited to the UK in October 2005, following the intervention of Mohammed Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central.
The Pakistani police had to engage in a ‘long struggle’ to capture two of the escapees. There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain, however, the Pakistani authorities agreed to extradite the suspects. There were numerous diplomatic complications around the case, including apparent divergences between government activities and those of ambassadorial officials; government figures were at times alleged to be reluctant to pursue the case for diplomatic reasons.
The three extradited suspects, Imran Shahid, Zeeshan Shahid, and Mohammed Faisal Mustaq, all in their late twenties, were charged with murder in October 2005. Their trial opened on 2 October 2006 in Scotland.
On 8 November 2006, the three men were found guilty of the racially motivated murder of Kriss Donald. All three had denied the charge; however, a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh convicted them of abduction and murder. Each of the killers received sentences of life imprisonment, with Imran Shahid given a 25-year minimum term, Zeeshan Shahid a 23-year minimum and Mushtaq receiving a recommended minimum of 22 years.
Lack of media coverage
The BBC has been criticized by some viewers because the case featured on national news only three times and the first trial was later largely confined to regional Scottish bulletins including the verdict itself. Although admitting that the BBC had "got it wrong", the organisation's Head of Newsgathering, Fran Unsworth, largely rejected the suggestion that Donald's race played a part in the lack of reportage, instead claiming it was mostly a product of "Scottish blindness". In preference to reporting the verdict the organisation found the time to report the opening of a new arts centre in Gateshead it its running order. The BBC again faced criticisms for its failure to cover the second trial in its main bulletins, waiting until day 18 to mention the issue and Peter Horrocks of the BBC apologised for the organisation's failings. However, Peter Fahy, spokesman of race issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers noted that the media as a whole tended to under-report the racist murders of white people, stating "it was a fact that it was harder to get the media interested where murder victims were young white men".
The British National Party were accused by Scotland's First Minister and Labour Party MSP Jack McConnell among others of seeking to exploit the case for political advantage, and an open letter signed by some prominent individuals, including MSPs, trades unionists, and community leaders condemned the BNP's plans to stage a visit to Pollokshields. The group did hold a rally in the area, leading to accusations that it was fuelling racial tension and exploiting a death for political capital.
Police political correctness
An article in The Scotsman newspaper alleged a lack of response by authorities to concerns of rising racial tensions and that Strathclyde Police had felt pressured to abandon Operation Gather, an investigation into Asian gangs in the area, for fear of offending ethnic minorities. On 8 November 2006 Bashir Maan, a prominent Pakistani Glaswegian, also claimed on BBC television that police were well aware of the activities of Asian gangs in Glasgow but were reluctant to take action for fear of being accused of racism. In a January 2005 interview with a Scottish newspaper, he had previously claimed that “fear and intimidation” had allowed problems with Asian gangs in some parts of the city to go unchecked. The article also quoted a former senior Strathclyde police officer who criticised “a culture of political correctness” which had allowed gang crime to “grow unfettered”.
A BBC report suggests that another reason for inaction was lack of evidence, as locals were more prepared to make complaints than to give evidence in court. Some commentators have argued the murder was somewhat mischaracterised in the media, as well as expressing a doubt that significant ethnic tensions exist in Pollokshields.
Early release of prisoners
The case drew attention to the issues of prisoners automatically being released from prison early when it emerged that one of the murderers, Shahid, was on early release from a prison sentence at the time of the killing. He had previously been jailed for two and half years for a road rage attack but only served nine months of his sentence.