The lawyer for the family of Sheku Bayoh believes the public inquiry into his death in custody is as important for Scotland as the Stephen Lawrence case was in England.
It was announced last week that the inquiry will look into the police’s conduct at the time Mr Bayoh was detained and afterwards and whether racism played any part in officers’ actions.
Solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “There has never been a public inquiry in Scotland which has examined the issue of race so this is a critical, watershed moment for this country.
“I believe this case is as significant to Scotland as the Stephen Lawrence case was to England. This public inquiry and its remit are of that level of importance.”
Mr Bayoh died after being restrained by up to nine police officers in a Kirkcaldy street in May 2015.
Police were responding to reports of a man carrying a knife but no knife was found on Mr Bayoh. He was restrained by police using CS spray, pepper spray and batons.
The 31-year-old, who had taken the drugs MDMA and Flakka, suffered more than 20 cuts and bruises, a broken rib and had petechial haemorrhages, a sign of asphyxiation, in his eyes.
Mr Bayoh’s sister Kadi, 42, a nurse, of Edinburgh, said: “We have always believed race played a big part in my brother’s death.
“Police had him on the ground and in handcuffs so we believe there was no reason for them to have acted the way they did.
“We are badly affected by my brother’s death and shocked at the actions of the police then and afterwards so we are pleased things are moving towards an inquiry.
“It has been five years but we keep on fighting for answers and some kind of justice.”
Retired judge Lord Bracadale will lead the public inquiry.
The officers’ legal representatives have denied any wrong-doing and said they welcome the opportunity to put their version of events before a public inquiry.
The justice system in England faced questions over institutional racism during the investigation into the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Two men were convicted of his murder nearly 20 years later in 2012.
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