Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Muslims 'exercising free speech' during Luton protest

Seven men on trial
The seven men on trial have denied the charges against them

A group of Muslims, accused of branding British soldiers murderers, were only exercising their right to free speech, a lawyer has told Luton magistrates.

The men chanted slogans as the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment marched through Luton last March.

The men deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words and behaviour likely to cause harassment and distress.

Kyri Argyropoulos, defending, said the case had "huge irony" as the soldiers had fought "in the name of freedom".

Earlier, District Judge Carolyn Mellanby rejected the men's lawyers' appeal for her to stop the case as an abuse of process or rule that there was no case to answer.

'Huge irony'

Those accused are: Jalal Ahmed, 21; Yousaf Bashir, 29; Ibrahim Anderson, 32; Jubair Ahmed, 19; Ziaur Rahman, 32; Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, and Munim Abdul, 29, all from Luton.

Angry scenes broke out during the homecoming parade for the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment on 10 March last year.

The regiment had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Argyropoulos, who is defending Mr Choudhury, told the court on the fourth day of the trial: "There's a huge irony in this case.

"Soldiers return home from two countries they were sent to in the name of democracy and freedom and the same state who sent them there in the name of democracy and freedom now seeks to prosecute them for that."

The trial continues.

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