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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 16:48 GMT
BNP and leader 'no longer racist'
Nick Griffin [left] and Mark Collett arrive at court in Leeds
The pair were greeted by supporters outside court as the trial began
The leader of the British National Party (BNP) has told a court that neither he nor his party are racist.

Nick Griffin, 47, told Leeds Crown Court that in the early 1990s "the party could be described as racist" and himself "to a certain extent".

But he said this was no longer the case and said a speech in which he described Islam as a "wicked, vicious faith" was not intended to stir racial hatred.

Mr Griffin, of Powys, mid Wales, denies two charges of stirring racial hatred.

The BNP's head of publicity, Mark Collett, 26, of Rothley, Leicestershire, denies four similar charges.

Getting involved

The charges arose out of speeches made in Keighley in 2004 which were secretly filmed by BBC journalist Jason Gwynne for a documentary on the party.

Giving evidence on the third day of his re-trial, Mr Griffin said the speeches were intended to "get people involved" in the party.

But he said he changed the theme of his speech after being approached by a woman who told him that young white girls were being given alcohol and drugs by groups of older Muslim youths.

When asked by his barrister, Timothy King QC if he was trying to direct hatred at Asians as a whole he said he was not.

He said: "This isn't a racial thing. It's not an Asian thing. It's a cultural and religious thing."

'Paki street thug'

Mr Griffin, who has a law degree from Cambridge University, was questioned about his use in the speech of the term "Paki street thug".

Mr Griffin said he was "talking about a particular kind of youth from the Muslim community" and that it was like using "a shorthand term" like "white trash" or "hoodie".

The married father-of-four said he had studied the Koran for many years, and his research had led him to the conclusion that the problems he perceived in local communities were not racial, but cultural and religious.

The jury was shown extracts from the Koran, books on Islam and reports about the religion, which Mr Griffin used to claim support for his view of Muslims.

He said the Koran provided an excuse for terrorists and radical Muslims, such as Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza.

"He's not a crazy extremist who is perverting Islam. He is getting this from the book."

The trial continues.




SEE ALSO
BNP speech intended to 'motivate'
06 Nov 06 |  Bradford
BNP leader 'said Islam is wicked'
03 Nov 06 |  Bradford
Rowdy scenes for race hate trial
01 Nov 06 |  Bradford

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