Leeds & West Yorkshire

Demo as court hears Facebook soldier deaths slur charge

Protesters outside Dewsbury Magistrates' Court
Image caption About 50 protesters, some holding placards, gathered outside the court

Protesters gathered outside a court as a teenager was accused of posting an offensive Facebook message about the deaths of six British soldiers.

Azhar Ahmed, 19, of Fir Avenue, Ravensthorpe, appeared at Dewsbury Magistrates' Court charged under the Communications Act 2003.

A racially-aggravated public order charge was withdrawn at the hearing and Mr Ahmed denied the new charge.

He was bailed to appear before Huddersfield magistrates on 3 July.

Mr Ahmed is charged with sending a message that was grossly offensive on 8 March.

There was a large police presence outside court as about 50 protesters staged a noisy demonstration when the defendant arrived and left.

Some of the protesters held placards featuring the name of the group Combined Ex-Forces - which describes itself on its website as a paramilitary organisation dedicated to expose and defeat internal and external enemies of the British people.

The placards called for those who insulted the British armed forces to be jailed.

Image caption Azhar Ahmed is charged with sending a message that was grossly offensive

The six soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in Lashkar Gah on 6 March in the deadliest single attack on British forces in Afghanistan since 2001.

Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was killed alongside Cpl Jake Hartley, 20, Pte Anthony Frampton, 20, Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19, Pte Daniel Wade, 20, and Pte Daniel Wilford, 21, all of 3 Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.

Mr Ahmed's court appearance coincided with therepatriation of the soldiers' bodies, which were being flown to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

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