UK & World News
Facebook: Man Spared Jail Over Comments
A man convicted of posting a grossly offensive Facebook message about the deaths of six British troops has been given a community order.
Azhar Ahmed's remarks included "all soldiers should DIE and go to HELL" - and his comments were described as "derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory" by a district judge.
Ahmed, 20, admitted posting the message two days after the deaths of the troops in Afghanistan in March - but told a trial at Huddersfield Magistrates' Court he did not think it was grossly offensive.
He said he had no idea his comments would cause so much upset, and that he was only trying to point out that other deaths in Afghanistan were being ignored.
Reacting to the public outcry over the soldiers' deaths, he wrote on the social networking website: "What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed."
His rant went on: "All soldiers should DIE and go to HELL", before ending with "Gotta problem. Go cry at your soldiers grave and wish him hell because that's where he is going."
The trial heard that the parents of one of the six soldiers who died saw the posting, which was copied around the internet.
Ahmed, of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, told the court he deleted the post as soon as he realised what reaction it was having.
He said he replied with apologies to many people who commented on his page and when some told him they had lost relatives in Afghanistan he realised how serious it was.
Ahmed, who acknowledged his comments were unacceptable, was found guilty last month of sending a grossly offensive communication.
He has been given a two-year community order and must do 240 hours of unpaid work.
Sky's Gerard Tubb, reporting from court, said: "There were some right-wing protesters at the back of the court.
"They stood up and started shouting when the sentence was handed down and the district judge Jane Goodwin called one of them back in before her and made him apologise.
Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was killed alongside Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, Private Anthony Frampton, 20, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, Private Daniel Wade, 20, and Private Daniel Wilford, 21, all of 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment.
Judge Goodwin said the law was not there to stop legitimate political opinions being strongly voiced but she said the test was whether what was written was "beyond the pale of what's tolerable in our society".
She ruled Ahmed's posting cleared this hurdle and said: "I'm satisfied that the message was grossly offensive".