Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Parade protest was 'freedom of speech'


The judge has heard detailed argument over freedom of expression laws

The lawyer of a protester accused of calling soldiers at a parade murderers has used philosopher Voltaire's views on freedom of speech to defend him.

Jubair Ahmed, 19, from Luton, is among seven Muslims facing accusations that they told soldiers to "burn in hell" in Luton on 10 March last year.

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

Mr Ahmed's lawyer said Voltaire was defending free speech in the 1700s.

'Freedom of speech'

Sonal Dashani said the right to freedom of speech was at stake in the case.

In her closing speech for his defence, she said: "Voltaire said 'I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'

"That was in the 18th Century. Things have moved on since then, though perhaps not as quickly as one might have liked.

"If you believe in freedom of speech you have to accept that some things will be said that you will like and some things will be said that you will not like."

Angry scenes broke out during the parade for the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers, in March in Luton.

Jalal Ahmed, 21, Yousaf Bashir, 29, Ziaur Rahman, 32, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, Munim Abdul, 28, and Ibrahim Anderson, 32, all from addresses in Luton, are on trial alongside Jubair Ahmed at Luton Magistrates' Court.

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.

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