A British Army instructor acuused of racially abusing a trainee soldier by calling him ‘P*** Rambo’ after watching comedy film Four Lions was cleared after it was revealed the young man called himself the slur.
Corporal Robert Mehers was accused at court martial of taunting Rifleman Kasem Salem over a period of eight months and also calling him a ‘carpet rider’ while he underwent his basic training.
The court heard he called the Muslim soldier a series of racist names, while another instructor – Serjeant Christopher Tolley – was said to have learned the Arabic for ‘your mother’s a whore’ so he could insult Rfn Salem in his first language.
Rifleman Kasem Salem claimed he was dubbed ‘P*** Rambo’ from comedy film Four Lions
It was also claimed Sjt Tolley told the 20 year old soldier his father was not allowed to attend his beret parade because he might be a ‘suicide bomber’ and ‘his car might have a bomb in it’, but he denied this and the case against him was thrown out.
The Chris Morris comedy Four Lions – which stars Riz Ahmed – was a hit in 2010 and followed a group of homegrown terrorist jihadis from Sheffield, South Yorks.
Captain Daniel Lawlor, prosecuting, said Cpl Mehers and Sjt Tolley were instructors at The Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorks, in 2019.
Cpl Mehers was today cleared of any ill treatment after telling the court Rfn Salem referred to himself as P*** Rambo, wanted the nickname and ‘took it as a point of pride’.
Cpl Mehers denied ever using the phrase himself and insisted he ‘treated all recruits equally’.
Rfn Jake Chattell, a fellow recruit, said : ‘Rfn Salem was never racially abused by any of the instructors.
Corporal Robert Mehers was cleared at court martial of taunting Rifleman Kasem Salem over a period of eight months
‘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 ‘P*** 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.’
Rfn Chattell also claimed Rfn Salem had contacted him last year to say he was withdrawing a complaint against ITC Catterick because he felt ‘pressured’ to make a complaint by other people. He said Rfn Salem believed he had made a ‘mistake’.
Rfn Salem alleged he was called ‘P*** Rambo’, ‘Egyptian’ and ‘carpet rider’ more regularly throughout his training and began to feel ‘singled out’ because of his religion and upbringing.
He told Bulford Military Court, Wilts, various ‘racial epithets’ were being used at the centre.
Rfn Salem started his infantry training in April 2019 with 5 Rifles, having moved to the UK from Egypt in 2012 with his father.
He said he was treated as an equal in his first week but started to become marginalised following a meeting with instructors, where he spoke at length about his culture and religion.
The court heard Cpl Mehers joined the British Army in 2005 and was recruited to the Rifles, with whom he completed three tours of Afghanistan.
In 2020 the 33-year-old was selected for promotion to Sergeant, but this was postponed until the outcome of his trial.
He was a section commander at ITC Catterick in 2019 but on a different section to that of Rfn Salem.
Cpl Mehers told the court: ‘Rifleman Salem was a recruit, I only had a professional opinion of him. At times he was immature and acted up to people around him… He played about when he was on the lines.
‘I did not [call him P*** Rambo] but I heard him refer to himself as it and we had word that the recruits would after hours.
‘I spoke to Rifleman Salem himself to make sure that he was ok and that if he wanted it to stop we would put an end to it there and then.
‘He took it as a point of pride and wanted the nickname.’
He also denied calling him an ‘Egyptian’ or ‘carpet rider’, adding ‘I don’t understand how that would have fitted into a conversation’.
The court heard Rfn Salem would greet Cpl Mehers in Arabic by saying ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’, meaning ‘peace be upon you’.
Sjt Tolley was found not guilty following Rfn Salem’s evidence and Mr Wylde’s submissions
Cpl Mehers said he would reply ‘Wa-Alaikum-Salaam’, which means ‘peace be also with you’.
Rfn William David-Jarman, who was also on the training course, said the ‘P*** Rambo’ nickname was ‘a phrase Rifleman Salem used himself to call himself, it was never from any of the instructors’.
Cpl Mehers was found not guilty of ill treatment of a subordinate and smiled as he walked free from court.
Rfn Salem previously told the court: ‘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 told the court Sjt Tolley and Cpl Mehers were initially very understanding and went ‘the extra mile’, making sure he had set times to pray all, of his dietary requirements were fulfilled and greeting him with ‘good morning, how are you’ in Arabic.
They also held ‘discussions about cultural understandings’ with the recruits where they could ask questions about sensitive subjects.
The court martial was being heard at Burfold Military Court and is continuing today
Rfn Salem alleged Sjt Tolley spoke to him in Arabic to say ‘your mother’s a whore’.
He said: ‘In my culture, if someone were to disrespect my mother or father that is massive, massive disrespect. So for someone not from my culture speaking my own language… that’s big disrespect.’
The instructors deny making any of these comments.
Ed Wylde, representing Sjt Tolley, told the hearing Rfn Salem referred to himself as ‘P*** Rambo’ after he and fellow recruits watched the satire ‘Four Lions’, in which one of the characters uses this phrase.
Mr Wylde said he even ran around the accommodation block ‘pretending to be a terrorist’ by shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘other nonsense words’ and used ‘Allahu Akbar’ as his ‘rallying cry’ when attacking training dummies during a bayonet exercise.
He said the young soldier was ‘the driving force behind the comedic variation of that stereotype’.
Sjt Tolley was also charged with ill treatment of a subordinate but was found not guilty.
The court ruled the evidence against Sjt Tolley was not strong enough for a case to be answered and directed the board to return a verdict of not guilty.