Man guilty of burning poppies at Armistice Day protest

Mohammad Haque (left) and Emdadur Choudhury
Image caption,
Mohammad Haque (left) and Emdadur Choudhury denied the charges

A Muslim extremist has been found guilty of burning poppies at a protest in west London on Armistice Day.

Emdadur Choudhury, 26, of Spitalfields, east London, was fined £50 for offences under the Public Order Act.

Choudhury, a member of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), had denied the charge at Woolwich Crown Court.

Mohammed Haque, 30, of Bethnal Green, was cleared of the charge. Both men had been accused of burning three oversized poppies on 11 November in Kensington.

Rival protests had been taking place at the time near the Royal Albert Hall, the end point of a charity march at which serving members handed over books of condolence ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

District Judge Howard Riddle said: "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."

'Just despicable'

Judge Riddle said the ceasefire at 11am on 11 November 1918 had "huge significance" for Britain and marked the end of a "terrible war".

He added: "Against that background, interrupting the two minutes' silence by chanting 'British soldiers burn in hell', followed by the burning of poppies, is behaviour that is bound to be seen as insulting."

The court was previously told that the grandson of a World War II soldier felt "sick inside" as Muslim extremists burned replica poppies.

Image caption,
Veterans' families felt said they felt physically sick at the act

Tony Kibble said: "Halfway through, I looked up to see what was going on around and I saw a ball of fire fall to the ground. Literally, my stomach turned over.

"I felt sick inside. It is something that means so much to me and to see what I believed to be a wreath of poppies fall to the ground - it is just despicable."

Judge Riddle called Mr Kibble a "mild-mannered" man who had impressed him as a member of the public with "typical feelings" about Remembrance Day.

He said that freedom of expression was not unlimited.

Video footage of the incident was shown to the court.

In it, a member of the MAC could be heard to say, "the two minutes have started" before leading a series of anti-British chants.

About 20 men at the demonstration joined in with shouts of: "Burn, burn, British soldiers, British soldiers, burn in hell."

The crowd continued: "British soldiers - murderers, British soldiers - rapists, British soldiers - terrorists."

Their actions went "far beyond the boundaries of legitimate protest and freedom of expression," prosecutor Simon Ray said.

Choudhury, of Hunton Street, was found guilty under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of burning the poppies in a way that was likely to cause "harassment, harm or distress" to those who witnessed it.

Daniel Breger, defending, said Choudhury was a married man who worked part-time.

He said his wages were £480 a month, on top of which he receives a monthly £792 in benefits from the state.

Choudhury must pay a £15 victim surcharge on top of his fine.

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