Five Muslim men accused of branding British soldiers rapists, murderers and baby killers during a homecoming parade were today found guilty of a public order offence.
Angry scenes broke out during the parade in Luton for the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers, on March 10 last year.
Munim Abdul, 28, Jalal Ahmed, 21, Yousaf Bashir, 29, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, and Ziaur Rahman, 32, all from Luton, were convicted at Luton Magistrates' Court today of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
Jubair Ahmed, 19, and Ibrahim Anderson, 32, also from Luton, were acquitted of the same charge.
A large crowd lined the streets of the Bedfordshire town to celebrate the return of the local regiment, who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a group of protesters also attended carrying placards and shouting slogans about the soldiers, prosecutor Avirup Chaudhuri said.
Among these were the jeers: "British Army: murderers"; "British soldiers burn in hell"; "Baby killers"; and "British soldiers you will pay". Protesters also denounced the troops as terrorists.
Lawyers defending the men said their clients discussed their plans to protest with police beforehand, had agreed to a time and a place to do so with them, had complied with police throughout and officers had not objected at the time to their slogans.
This implied consent by the police and to prosecute them retrospectively was not right, the lawyers said.
But District Judge Carolyn Mellanby rejected their argument.
Giving her judgment, she said: "I find that a criminal prosecution and conviction of five of the seven defendants is a proportionate response to the legitimate aim of protection of society and maintenance of public order, not only for the future but to ensure there is sufficient public confidence and support in the peace-keeping responsibilities of the police and the courts."
The incident provoked a public outcry, she added.
The five men were given two year conditional discharges and order to pay contributions towards costs of £500 each.
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