Luton anti-war protesters guilty

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Five given conditional discharges and ordered to pay £500 towards legal costs

FIVE protesters who branded British troops as “Murderers,” “Rapists” and “Baby-killers” at a home-coming parade have been found guilty of public order offences.

District Judge Carolyn Mellanby passed a two year conditional discharge on each of the men and ordered them to pay £500 costs at Luton Magistrates Court

She said: “I am anxious to deter you and others from behaving like this in the future.”

Seven Luton men pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that they used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others. The charges were brought under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

The judge found Jalal Ahmed, 21, Yousef Bahsir, 29, Ziaur Rahman, 32, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, and Munim Abdul, 29, guilty. Ibrahim Anderson, 32 and Jubair Ahmed, 19, were found not guilty.

CCTV and police video footage of trouble that broke out during a procession by the 2nd Batallion Royal Anglian Regiment through Luton on 10 March last year, was played during the six-day trial.

Prosecutor Avirup Chaudhuri told the court the slogans shouted by the group went “beyond legitimate protest.” He said: “The crown say that in the course of protest these men went beyond the acceptable perimeters of reasonable public debate and into the realms of simple insult and abuse. The use of words such as murderers, rapists and baby killers and the desire that they should go to hell or burn in hell represents abusive words and behaviour.”

Inspector James Goldsmith told the court the procession was “very well attended by the local community” and that the actions of the protestors caused “members of the public to become very upset.”

Defence barristers argued that the group were allowed freedom of speech under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. Kyri Argyropoulos said: “What the crown is seeking to do here is criminalizing men for protesting.”

Only two defendants gave evidence. Munin Abdul said the words used had been chosen carefully and were not intended to upset anyone. Shajjadar Choudhury said: “To shout the truth in a street is not an insult. We were highlighting the truth. The words we selected were chosen so we didn’t offend.”

In finding five men guilty the Judge Mellanby said: “I have no doubt it is abusive and insulting to tell soldiers to go to hell and to call soldiers murderers, rapists and baby killers. It is not just insulting to the soldiers, but to the citizens of Luton who were out on the streets that day to honour and welcome soldiers home. Citizens of Luton are entitled to demonstrate their support for the troops without experiencing insults and abuse.

“The fact that they say they did not intend their remarks to be insulting does not amount to defence in law. They were fully aware that shocking phrases in such circumstances would inevitably cause distress. They wanted people to take notice, to be shocked to open their eyes, as Mr Choudhury put it. But this went beyond putting a point across, it crossed the threshold of legitimate protest and provoked and caused distress.”

The defendants’ legal team said they would be appealing against the convictions in the High Court.

District Judge Carolyn Mellanby passed a 2 year conditional discharge on each of the five men and ordered them to pay £500 costs.

She said: “I am anxious to deter you and others from behaving like this in the future.”

The court heard none of the five defendants was working.

The defendants’ legal team said they would be appealing against the convictions in the High Court.

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