No Pasaran! Defendants cleared in Rotherham 12 trial

16 Nov 2016

All defendants in the trial of 10 members of the “Rotherham 12” were today cleared of violent disorder by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court. Two of the defendants, Asif Zaman and Arshad Khan, were represented by Michael Mansfield QC and Stephen Knight.

The 10 men had been accused of violent disorder in the context of a conflict between local Asian men and street-fighting fascists which took place outside the William Fry public house on Wellgate in Rotherham. The fascists were in Rotherham on the day of a neo-Nazi Britain First demonstration in Rotherham town centre, the 14th such demonstration in as many months. It took place a few days after the brutal racist murder of an elderly local man, and was part of a campaign of racist abuse which members of the local community who gave evidence at the trial said had created a “siege mentality”. On the afternoon of 5 September 2015, police directed hundreds of people who had attended a peaceful counter-demonstration past the William Fry public house, where officers knew that fascists had gathered that day. The members of the counter-demonstration were faced with racist abuse, and bottles, bricks and pint glasses being thrown at them by the fascists. No police were present at the scene and they were forced to defend themselves and their community.

At trial, senior police officers involved in the case were subject to detailed cross-examination by counsel relating to their complete failure to plan for the end of the counter-demonstration and to ensure that the local people were able to leave the area safe from attack by fascists. Officers gave flatly contradictory accounts of what they knew, with the Silver Commander Chief Inspector Richard Butterworth denying any knowledge of the location of the fascists, or of the reputation of the William Fry for being a haunt for local football hooligans. These were facts which his subordinates admitted awareness of, and in some cases claimed to have informed him about.

The acquittal of all 10 defendants is a vindication of the Rotherham 12 defence campaign. Two other defendants had previously pleaded guilty and may now seek to re-open their pleas.

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