The anti-war protesters caused outrage when they called the troops – who had previously served in Iraq – rapists, murderers and baby killers.
The five who lost their appeal: From left, Choudhury, Rahman, Ahmed, Abdul and Bashir:
After the Luton protest, five Muslim men were convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to cause harassment, alarm of distress.
But in their ruling two judges said the men’s actions had gone well beyond ‘legitimate expressions of protest’.
He said the men were fortunate there had been no serious outbreak of violence and attributed their safety to ‘skilful policing’.
Lord Justice Gross added that freedom of expression was not an unqualified right and ‘the justification for invoking the criminal law is the threat to public order’.
Mr Justice Davis agreed, saying the right to exercise freedom of expression – under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – ‘necessarily carries with it duties and responsibilities’.
He added: ‘These were not just generalised statements of views, vigorously expressed, on the morality of the war but were personally abusive and potentially defamatory of those soldiers.
Although the battalion is currently based in Cyprus, Bedfordshire is one of their main recruiting areas.
Trouble flared on March 10, 2009, when the 200 members of the battalion – who had lost 12 men during two tours of Iraq and one in Afghanistan – marched through Luton to a meeting with their colonel-in-chief, the Duke of Gloucester.
There were heated exchanges between members of the public who had turned out to cheer on the soldiers and the anti-war contingent, who had been penned into a small area for their safety.
Five protesters – Jalal Ahmed, 22, Munim Abdul, 29, Yousaf Bashir, 30, Shajjadar Choudhury, 32, and Ziaur Rahman, 33, all from Luton – were later found guilty at the town’s magistrates court of public order offences.
Each received a two-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £500 costs.
He said: ‘Describing our servicemen and women as baby killers and rapists is incendiary and was deeply distressing.’
Tom Lennett, 67, a former reservist in the Royal Anglian Regiment who was in the crowd at the parade in 2009, said: ‘I’m very pleased the verdicts have been upheld but I think they should have been given stronger sentences in the first place. They got off lightly. What they did was shameful.’