Far-right activists fined for acting out mock beheading in protest against mosque

United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell

Three far-right activists have been fined for carrying out a mock-beheading and shouting “Allahu akbar” in protest against the building of a mosque in Australia.

After a two-day-hearing last Tuesday, Magistrate John Hardy found the trio guilty and fined them $2,000 (£1,220) each.

Christopher Shortis, 46, Neil Erikson, 32 and Blair Cottrell, 27 who are members of the “United Patriots Front” were accused of encouraging antipathy and disdain towards Muslims in Australia.

They are the first to be convicted under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

This decision came after the trio acted out a mock-beheading in opposition to the building of a mosque in Bendigo.

The High Court dismissed a final legal challenge against the mosque, paving the way for it to be built.

The video features Cottrell speaking to the camera about the mosque plans and gives directions to Shortis and Erikson to decapitate a dummy with a plastic sword.

The costumes make clear reference to the stereotypical image of Muslims – an Arab-style head covering and a thobe.

Although the dress code deployed is widely considered Arab, the video mocked Muslims because the perpetrators screamed “Allahu Akbar” during the act.

In submissions before the magistrate’s ruling, prosecutor Fran Dalziel stressed that the men were attributing acts of terrorism and fundamentalism to Muslims.

The video which was posted on the UPF’s Facebook page appears to not only to ridicule Muslims, but to also encourage people who espoused far-right views to attend a rally opposing the mosque, Mr Hardy concluded.

In court, Mr Hardy told the trio they had “crossed the line”.

The magistrate added: “We live in a community that is extraordinarily diverse and each person is entitled to live their life without being subjected to wrongful conduct by others.”

Cottrell, Shortis and Erikson claimed the video was not intended to insult Muslims.

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