Last updated at 6:16 PM on 7th March 2011
- Veterans dismiss ‘futile sentence’
A shameless Muslim extremist who burned a poppy on Armistice Day today boasted that would wear his £50 as ‘a badge on my shoulder’.
Emdadur Choudhury , 26, who was convicted at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court of a public order offence, also claimed the charge levelled against him was ‘ridiculous’.
Choudhury, of Spitalfields, East London, was caught on camera unfurling several large plastic poppies on the ground before burning them at the end of the two-minute silence to honour the war dead.
Mohammad Haque (left) and Emdadur Choudhury (right) pictured today. Choudhury was convicted of a public order offence after he burned a poppy on Armistice Day and fined £50. Fellow defendant Haque was found not guilty of the same offence
He was convicted of ‘using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to have been caused harassment, alarm or distress’ by District Judge Howard Riddle, following a one-day trial last month.
His fellow defendant, Mohammad Haque, 30, of Bethnal Green, was found not guilty of the same public order offence.
Neither defendant appeared at the court, where Choudhury was ordered to pay the money, alongside a £15 victim surcharge. The maximum fine he could have received was £1,000.
SO WHY WAS HE JUST CHARGED WITH A PUBLIC ORDER OFFENCE?
Emdadur Choudhury was charged with an offence under Section 5 of Public Order Act 1986. Under the act, a person is guilty of an offence if they use either, threatening abusive or insulting words, disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or visible representation that he threatening or insulting.
The maximum sentence for this offence is six months, while the highest fine imposable by a court is £1,000. The judge could also have imposed a community sentence such as unpaid work. However because the defendant is understood to have no prior criminal convictions, the judge would not have considered a custodial sentence.
Choudhury could also have been charged under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which is racially or religiously aggravated public order offence. This offence also carries a maximum sentence of six months, but the level of fine can reach £2,500.
The defendant could also have faced charges of an incitement or racial hatred under the Public Order Act.
This offence relates to deliberately provoking hatred of a racial group. Among the offences listed as arrestable are making inflammatory public speeches and inciting inflammatory rumours about an individual or an ethnic group.
Choudhury, who denies receiving any state benefit and describes his occupation as technical engineer, said today: ‘It is ridiculous for them to find me guilty of this crime which is not really a crime.
‘Is that really a crime – I don’t think so. You can see by the punishment they have given me. It was a political issue.’
Asked why he had not attended the hearing which found him guilty, Mr Choudhury said: ‘I did not want to waste my time on something which is really insignificant.
‘This fine, I will wear it as a badge on my shoulder. I did it for Allah. I did it to raise awareness that these so-called soldiers are the criminals.
‘They are the ones who should be tried for war crimes.’
Sentencing, District Judge Riddle said he was in no doubt that the intention of the protest was to ‘shock and offend’.
‘Shocking and offending people is sometimes a necessary part of effective protest. Here, an obvious consequence of this process was to show disrespect for dead soldiers, who should burn in hell.
‘The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.
‘If the memory of dead soldiers is publicly insulted at at time and place where are likely to be gathered people who have expressly attended to honour those soldiers, then the threat to public order is obvious.
‘Here it is hard to imagine that a public order disturbance was not intended.’
However the sentence was met with anger by former soldiers.
Shaun Rusling, vice chairman of the National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association claimed the sentence was ‘disgusting’.
Choudary was caught on camera unfurling several large plastic poppies on the ground before burning them at the end of the two-minute silence to honour the war dead
‘If we set fire to a Qur’an there would be uproar and they would go after us but because this is Britain people just get upset. It is a futile sentence.
‘For them to insult those who have given their lives for freedom is an affront. It is one law for them and one law for others.
‘Appalling’: Shaun Rusling said all soldiers and veterans were disgusted by the sentence
‘It will not serve as a deterrent, a £50 fee is nothing really, they can just pass it around amongst themselves to pay for it.
‘They should have got a suspended or a much more severe sentence. It may have acted as a preventative measure for others and if they did it again they would be in serious trouble.’
‘All of those who protested by holding these signs saying ‘British soldiers burn in hell’ should have been charged with much more serious offences.’
‘I do not object to their right to protest, but what I do object to is for them to insult the people who have fought for their country to give them that right.’
‘When I was soldier in the first Gulf War, we treated everyone the same, with utmost respect and kindness. For them to behave that way towards British soldiers. Everyone thinks it is appalling.’
Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood echoed Mr Rusling’s comments, claiming the sentence against the poppy-burning extremist was not adequate to make up for the hurt it had caused.
Mr Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said: ‘I don’t think it is adequate for the hurt he has caused to a huge amount of people and for the people who have died and been injured fighting for their country.
‘They should be made to pay costs and really £50 is not enough. We don’t take it seriously enough, he hurt a lot of people – people who are simply going out and doing their jobs.’
The court heard how Choudhury and his fellow protesters had chosen the location to be close to serving and former members of the armed forces and their family and friends who were attending the finale of the Walk For Heroes.
However because of some delays those on the charity walk did not arrive until later in the day.
A large number of MAC protesters gathered shortly before 11am at the corner of Exhibitions Road and Kensington Gore, close to the Royal Albert Hall, carrying banners and chanting slogans ‘vehemently critical of the British armed forces.’
Members of the English Defence League organised a counter demonstration across the road, shouting ‘clearly offensive and anti-Islamic’ comments, and the two parties were separated by a line of police.
Emdadur Choudhury, who didn’t bother to attend the hearing, claimed the charge levelled against him was ‘ridiculous’
Throughout the period of silence one protester using a microphone led the crowd in chants of ‘burn, burn British soldiers’, ‘British soldiers burn in hell’, ‘British soldiers murderers’, ‘British soldiers terrorists’.
The incident was filmed by the Metropolitan Police, the media and members of the public.
Prosecutor Simon Ray said both Haque and Choudhury ‘associated themselves with and were lending themselves to the chanting’.
The two men moved to the front of the group and Choudhury was seen to place two or three poppies on the ground before dousing them with accelerant and setting them alight.
Haque was seen waving a large black flag and standing over the burning poppies.
Both Haque and Choudhury were then arrested at the scene.
Both admitted they took part in the demonstration and said they did so ‘to exercise their right freedom of expression.’
Tony Kibble was at the Royal Albert Hall to see the troops complete the march and hand in a book of remembrance.
Mr Kibble, the grandson of a Second World War veteran, witnessed the poppies turn in to a ‘ball of flames’, He said: ‘I felt sick inside. It is something that runs through me, it is something that means so much to me.
‘So to see what I believed was a wreath of poppies fall to the ground, it was despicable.’ He told the court his stomach ‘literally turned over’.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1363772/Muslim-extremist-burned-poppies-Armistice-Day-fined-just-50.html#ixzz1FwnMuANS