Band fights to free curry house killer

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POP group Primal Scream are calling for the release of an Asian man who has been in prison for 11 years after stabbing someone to death.

The band, who have had two top 10 albums, say that Satpal Ram, who is serving a life sentence for murder, was acting in self-defence against a racist attack. They claim that he is a political prisoner.

Last month, the group raised pounds 5,000 for the campaign to free Ram, aged 32, by charging people on their guest list at a gig at the Brixton Academy in South London. Next week they will visit him at Hull prison and a few days later, play a benefit gig for him in Liverpool.

Ram stabbed a white man, Clarke Pearce, during a fight at an Indian restaurant in Birmingham in November 1986. Pearce had allegedly racially abused Ram and slashed him with a glass. Ram claims he stabbed Pearce in self-defence. Pearce refused medical treatment and later died.

Ram was convicted of murder at Birmingham Crown Court in November 1987. The Free Satpal Ram campaign says the conviction is unsafe because there were a number of irregularities at the trial.

Ram was advised by his solicitors that self-defence was not a viable option and they advanced a defence of provocation. They did not call Ram to give evidence. Also, a key defence witness, a Bengali waiter at the restaurant, was not given an interpreter. Ram unsuccessfully appealed against his conviction in November 1995.

Primal Scream learnt about Ram's case while touring with another group, Asian Dub Foundation (ADF), who recently had a hit with a single called "Free Satpal Ram". ADF are currently on a nationwide tour and are asking fans to sign petitions and write to Home Secretary Jack Straw about the case.

Primal Scream lead singer Bobby Gillespie said that the band are also calling for an immediate end to what he says is the harsh treatment Ram is suffering within the prison system. He is kept in solitary confinement for more than 22 hours each day and is moved to a new prison every four weeks. Gillespie said: "The authorities are trying to bring Satpal to his knees."

Graham Rawlings, Deputy Governor at Hull Prison, defended the policy, saying: "Ram's behaviour is such that he is having to be segregated from other prisoners."

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is currently deciding whether to refer Ram's case back to the Court of Appeal.