Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 16:26 UK

Boys 'happy' to flog themselves

A man accused of making two boys flog themselves until they bled at a Shia Muslim ceremony said they were happy to perform the ritual, a court has heard.

Syed Mustafa Zaidi said he asked the boys, aged 14 and 15, if they wanted to self-flagellate at the Ashura ceremony.

The jury at Manchester Crown Court was told how he beat himself then allegedly forced them to do the same at a community centre in Manchester in 2007.

Mr Zaidi, 44, of Station Road, Eccles, denies two counts of child cruelty.

He admitted he allowed the boys to use his zanjeer zani, which has five curved blades attached to chains and a wooden handle, to carry out the matam - the act of flagellation - during the ceremony in Levenshulme on 19 January.

The ceremony commemorates the death of the spiritual leader of Shia Muslims.

Warehouse supervisor

Mr Zaidi told his defence barrister, Richard Marks QC, he was not wrong to allow the boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to use his zanjeer zani.

He said: "This is a part of our religion."

He told the court he could not imagine hurting the children.

It was an emotional time and the children were happy, they asked for it
Syed Mustafa Zaidi

He added: "I'm on oath and we're talking about my religion here.

"I can't lie about this, he came towards me, he walked towards me, people are witnesses to this and he said himself that he wanted to do the matam."

He denied pulling and pushing the 14-year-old boy and pulling his T-shirt off.

Mr Zaidi said: "He came to me himself. I asked him do you want to do it and he said yes.

"I said okay I'll go and wash the zanjeer for you."

Blades 'blunted'

He added that he stopped the boy when he thought he had done enough, but said the boy wanted to continue.

"It was an emotional time and the children were happy, they asked for it. No one forced anyone."

He said he also saw other children doing the matam.

He told the court: "If I knew that this was going to turn all against me I wouldn't have allowed them to do it, I wouldn't have done it."

Mr Zaidi, a warehouse supervisor, said he first performed the matam when he was seven in Pakistan and did it three times a year.

He also added that by using the zanjeer zani on himself first he had reduced the sharpness of the blades by 60%.

The trial continues.

Boy, 14, 'forced to flog himself'
19 Aug 08 |  Manchester
Boys 'flogged' during Shia ritual
18 Aug 08 |  Manchester
Man charged after Muslim ceremony
24 Jan 08 |  Manchester

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