London: Seven Muslim protesters accused of screaming insults at soldiers during an Iraq homecoming parade refused to stand for a judge on Monday.
The men are alleged to have shouted "murderers", "rapists", "terrorists" and "baby killers" while waving placards at the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment marching through Luton.
At the town's magistrates' court, they denied using threatening, abusive, insulting words and behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others.
After refusing to stand they were threatened with being found in contempt of court by a clearly angry District Judge Carolyn Mellanby.
They insisted it was a "grave and cardinal sin" to show anyone other than Allah respect by standing.
Eventually, a compromise was reached where they would enter the court after her during the trial, which is expected to last six days. The maximum penalty each of the men can receive is a £1,000 (Dh5,900) fine.
The defendants were given an extra 20 minutes on top of their lunch break to go to pray at a mosque a few minutes' walk away. A separate "quiet" room has been set aside for their regular prayer intervals for the rest of the week.
The seven accused men are Munin Abdul, 28, Jalal Ahmad, 21, Jabair Ahmad, 19, Yousuf Bashir, 29, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, Ziaur Rahman, 32, and white Muslim Ebrahim Anderson, 32, all from Luton.
They are alleged to have chanted: "British army murderers", "British soldiers burn in hell" and "Baby killers shame on you".
Trouble flared on March 10 last year as the regiment — known as the Poachers — marched to a meeting with the Duke of Gloucester, the regiment's colonel-in-chief, and local dignitaries in Luton town centre.
They had just returned from a second tour of duty in Iraq, and had previously fought in Afghanistan. The battalion has lost 12 soldiers in both campaigns.