Wednesday, June 29 2016

Extreme far right group protest outside Facebook trial

The Huddersfield Daily Examiner has reported on a protest by an extreme far right group which took place outside a court during the trial of a teenager, Azhar Ahmed. Ahmed has been found guilty of posting offensive messages on Facebook following the deaths of six British soldiers.

From the local paper:

“A far right anti-Islam group descended on the Huddersfield trial of man [sic] accused of insulting British troops on Facebook.

“Combined Ex-Forces (CXF), a Liverpool-based splinter group of the English Defence League, demonstrated outside Kirklees Magistrates Court yesterday as Azhar Ahmed, 20, stood trial.

“The group claims to be a paramilitary organisation dedicated to exposing and defeating the enemies of British people.

“More than 30 members gathered by the steps of the court with a large Union Flag.

“A large number of police officers were on duty around the court building, with mounted police patrolling the area as Ahmed arrived for his trial.

“One CXF member, who went into the trial, was ejected by police officers after refusing to leave.

“The CXF mission statement says: “Unite the Right, GSTQ (God Save The Queen), NSFE (No Surrender For Ever), FGAU (For God and Ulster).

“It goes on: “Combined Ex Forces will be on duty in every town in every part of Britain ready, willing and able to protect its countries men, women and children, every day 24/7.”

A police spokesman said that the protest “passed without incident”.

The charge of sending ‘grossly offensive’ communication comes under the Communications Act 2003, whereby one is guilty if he “sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”. The substance of the legislation would appear to be quite subjective- who determines what is grossly offensive/indecent/obscene/menacing? It would appear from previous cases of convictions under this legislation that Ahmed has the right to appeal, though there is currently no indication as to whether Ahmed will appeal his conviction.

One only needs to glance at the Facebook page of the CXF- the group who protested at the trial, to realise the unmoderated incitement to hatred against Muslims as well as anti-Semitic commentary and incitement to violence as well as other ‘grossly offensive’ material that is being espoused by the group, whose images and comments make “muzzie scum” appear like a relatively mild remark. If Ahmed was put on trial for sending grossly offensive communication, it is a mystery why groups such as the CXF which are clearly known to the police have not been investigated and individuals are not also being put on trial for posting such material. As Bob Pitt at Islamophobia Watch has commented on the case, “is it only Muslims who are prosecuted for posting Facebook messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character"?”

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