The trial of 12 Asian men, known as the Rotherham 12, started today. The charges relate to an incident, which occurred during a far-right Britain’s First demonstration in Rotherham in September 2015. The 12 men, namely Asif Zaman, Mohammed Saleem, Arshad Khan, Abrar Javid, Imran Iqbal, Nasrum Rashid, Moshin Mahmood, Sadaqat Ali, Shaban Ditta and Akaash Nazir all claim they were acting in self-defence. The men are in court charged with violent disorder. In addition, one of the defendants, Asif Zaman, has also been charged with carrying an offensive weapon.
In court today, Paul O’Shea, prosecuting, said the far-right group was shouting “vile racist abuse” at the men, using language like “Paki bastards”. He added that the far-right group “got rather more than they bargained for” when they started a fight with the men on their way home from the counter-protest, finding themselves very quickly outnumbered. “Having started the trouble, as often happens in these sorts of circumstances, they found themselves in serious trouble themselves and on the receiving end of something they started” .
The jury was also shown various pieces of CCTV footage that showed two groups fighting in the street outside the William Fry pub in the South Yorkshire town before the police arrived, and later in the afternoon they visited the site of the fight.
Importantly, the prosecution today acknowledged the negative impact of the Far right marches through Rotherham. Paul O’Shea noted “the marches represented a significant and unwelcome intrusion into the lives of the people of Rotherham, an unwanted drain of police resources.. nor was it conducive to maintaining harmonious community relations.” Furthermore he noted that the local Asian community did not involve themselves in any counter demonstration, “that situation however altered following the murder of an 81 year old man Mr Mushin Ahmed on August 10th 2015. It is in the context of that incident which you can well appreciate caused shock and outrage in the local community that on 5th September when yet another march was planned, the local community did involve itself in the counter protest. ”
Although these statements from the Prosecution seem to acknowledge both the racism stirred up though the previous Far right marches, and also that on the 5th September 2105, it was the Far Right who started the fights, the Proseuction statements failed to explore the impact which this racial hatred had upon the victims, and how this relates to the notion of ‘self defence’. Indeed so far the court has not heard any guidance about ‘self defence’.
The case continues and is expected to last around six weeks.
written by Jagdish Patel
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