In the Media

Freed after eight months, the man jailed for defending his dying brother from a racist mob

PUBLISHED June 27, 2012

Isbar Ellahi spent nearly eight months in jail for "brawling" with a gang of youths whose attack led to the death of his brother, Israr.

Three senior judges at London's Court of Appeal today released Isbar after ruling he should never have been jailed.

Speaking outside court, Mr Ellahi's sister, Shakila, said: "This was a clear miscarriage of justice and I am relieved that we can start grieving for Israr. I am angry at the Crown Prosecution Service and the police who charged my brother.

"The system has gone badly wrong here and I am relieved he has been released today. There are no words that can account for what my family and I have gone through."

Lord Justice Hooper told the court that Israr, 30, from Stoke-on-Trent, was confronted by a gang of up to 15 white youths in June 2010, shortly after a racist attack on Tiger Bites takeway in Stoke.

His brother Isbar and friend Mohammed Shafiq, 30, of Robert Street, were passing in a car and got out in a bid to help him.

As they went to Israr's aid he was punched to the ground, causing injuries from which the father-of-three tragically died 12 days later, the judge said.

A charge of manslaughter against one of the gang was later dropped due to lack of evidence, and Isbar and Shafiq were controversially accused of violent disorder, which they later admitted, the court heard.

At Stoke Crown Court in November last year, both men received longer sentences than those who initiated the violence, with Isbar handed a three-and-a-half year jail term and Shafiq jailed for three years.

Four others were given sentences of up to two years and nine months after they admitted violent disorder. Two of them also pleaded guilty to affray.

Appealing today, Simon Farrell QC, for Isbar, said: "There is a sense from the family and the appellant that he should never have pleaded guilty to this. It is truly a tragic case."

Shafiq's lawyer, Balbir Singh, added: "The judge had no regard at all to the fact that the brother of one of appellants died, and the very good friend of the other.

"It is of great concern to them that they were unable to do more to help the man who they got out of the car to protect. It was not necessary to send those men to custody."

He told the court Shafiq's nine-year-old niece died from cancer while he was inside, and it was a source of "great distress" to him that he was not around to comfort his family.

Lord Justice Hooper, sitting with Mr Justice Hamblen and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, ruled that suspended sentences were the most the two men should have faced and cut both prison terms to allow their release.

The judge said: "It is not easily clear to determine why the two appellants pleaded guilty. They appear to have accepted that, having started effecting some lawful violence in defence of Israr, they went beyond that which they ought to have done.

"Whilst accepting that this court is loathe to interfere with a trial judge's assessment of culpability, we take the view that the judge seriously over-estimated and over-categorised the culpability of these two appellants.

"We take the view that, if there was to be custodial sentences at all, it would have been a short one that would have been suspended. However, they have now been in custody since November and have served a significant time in prison.

"Doing the best that we can do by passing a sentence which ensures their immediate release, but accepting that the sentence we would have passed would have been shorter, we substitute a sentence of nine months."

Outside court, Miss Ellahi added: "It is clear from the judge's remarks today that he should not have been charged. He was grief-ridden and frightened when he pleaded guilty."