Two army instructors cleared of racially abusing Muslim trainee soldier

Two army instructors have been cleared of calling a trainee soldier “Paki Rambo” and suggesting his father was a suicide bomber.

Cpl Robert Mehers and Sgt Christopher Tolley were accused of racially abusing Rifleman Kasem Salem, who is a Muslim and originally from Egypt, while he undertook basic training at the infantry training centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Mehers was said to have called Salem “Paki Rambo” – a nickname used in the satirical film Four Lions, about a group of inept jihadists – and “carpet rider”, a court martial was told.

The court also heard that Tolley allegedly learned the Arabic for: “Your mother’s a whore” so he could insult Salem in his first language.

Tolley was alleged to have told Salem his father was not allowed to attend a parade because he might be a suicide bomber and “his car might have a bomb in it”.

Salem, 20, told the court in Bulford, Wiltshire, he moved to the UK keen to follow his father into the military but felt “marginalised” by the alleged comments. He started his training in April 2019 with 5 Rifles.

Salem said: “I decided to join the army because my father and his father served, so it’s a tradition. I was very open about my religion, faith and family … we talked about my beliefs and my culture.”

He said the instructors were initially very understanding, making sure he had set times to pray and all his dietary requirements were fulfilled. But he claimed the racial abuse began and he felt singled out because of his religion and upbringing.

But Tolley’s barrister, Ed Wylde, told the hearing Salem referred to himself as “Paki Rambo” after he and fellow recruits watched the Chris Morris satire Four Lions, in which one of the characters uses the phrase.

Wylde said he even ran around the accommodation block “pretending to be a terrorist” and used “Allahu Akbar” – “God is greatest” – as his “rallying cry” when attacking training dummies during a bayonet exercise.

Tolley and Mehers were both charged with ill treatment of a subordinate but Tolley was found not guilty after Salem’s evidence and Wylde’s submissions.

Mehers, who also denied the charge, told the court he had not used any of the words or phrases Salem had alleged but said the recruit had himself used the phrase “Paki Rambo” and “took it as a point of pride”. He was also cleared.

Another recruit, Rifleman Jake Chattell, said Salem had never been racially abused by any of the instructors.

Chattell said: “He used to call himself two nicknames. One of them was “sand dancer” that he had written on his door in camp … he also used to call himself “Paki Rambo”.

“He used to find it hilarious … he used to say it all the time, he said it was funny and part of the banter.”

Chattell claimed Salem had contacted him last year to say he was withdrawing a complaint against ITC Catterick because he had felt “pressured” to make the allegations by other people.

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