Army supporters abused protesting Muslims at troops' parade, court told

TWO supporters of the British army shouted abuse about Osama bin Laden at Muslim protesters at a soldiers' homecoming parade, a court has heard.

Bryan Kelso, 27, and Kevin Carroll, 40, deny committing a public order offence at the parade in Luton, Bedfordshire, to welcome home the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers.

Angry scenes broke out at the parade on 10 March last year after a group of Muslim extremists brandished placards with slogans including "Butchers of Basra", "British soldiers burn in hell" and "Baby killers".

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Kelso, of Chapel Street, Luton, and Carroll, of Bollingbroke Road, Luton, pleaded not guilty at Luton Magistrates' Court to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Both men were part of a hostile crowd who confronted the Muslim protesters and told them to "f*** off", prosecutor Avirup Chaudhuri said.

They also sung a song with the words "Bin Laden's mother is a whore", he told the court.

Kelso, a father who had wanted to join the army himself, told the Muslims to "get out of my f****** country" and made obscene gestures, Mr Chaudhuri said.

He can be seen on CCTV footage approaching the protesters aggressively and having to be pushed back by the police, he added.

Carroll called the Muslims "scum" and "w******", he said, and could be seen on CCTV footage shouting and gesticulating at them.

Mr Chaudhuri said: "The two men were in the vanguard of the hostile crowd."

The Muslim protesters had links to the recently banned group Islam4UK, the court heard.

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Kelso said in his police interview, which was read out in court: "They were just giving so much abuse to people who I consider to be heroes.

"They were shouting at the people who are defending this country. I ain't going to lie to you, I would have hit one."

A large crowd of well-wishers turned out on the day of the parade and Kelso had attended with his daughter and his former partner, the court heard.

He and Carroll were arrested in September after police viewed CCTV footage recorded on the day.

Giving evidence, Inspector David Atraghji, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "(The) counter-demonstrators ... were collectively loud, the chants were obviously abusive and I would say they were physically intimidating."

Both men accepted that the language they had used was abusive.

Father-of-one Carroll, a carpenter, told the court he was "extremely angry and outraged" at the Muslims' protest against the British army.

Giving evidence, he said: "(My language) was meant to be abuse because that was how I felt at the time.

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"I went there to greet my home-town regiment because one of the chaps that was killed there, I knew him, and I felt I owed it to him to turn up."

"What made me intensely angry was that these extremists were allowed to stand in front of the these troops, who had just lost three of their best friends." He was not a member of the National Front and was not a racist, he said in his police interview.

Kelso, who worked as a market trader at the time, said he had two friends in the local regiment.

He said he was "close to tears" when he heard the Muslims' protest.

Giving evidence, he told the court: "The march made me really proud, so happy ...

"(The protesters) were just abusing people that defend this country."

The trial was adjourned to 5 March and both men were released on bail.

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