UK

Soldiers deny membership of banned neo-Nazi group

Mikko Vevhilainen (left) and Mark Barrett at an earlier hearing Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Mikko Vevhilainen (left) and Mark Barrett at an earlier hearing

Two British soldiers have pleaded not guilty to membership of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action.

Mikko Vevhilainen, 33, from Powys, and Mark Barrett, 24, from Rutland, entered their pleas during a preliminary hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.

A third defendant - a 23-year-old man who cannot be identified for legal reasons - has yet to enter a plea to the membership charge.

The three men, who are all in custody, will stand trial on 5 March.

National Action became the first far-right group to be banned in the UK when it was proscribed under anti-terror laws in December 2016.

L/Cpl Vevhilainen, from Sennybridge Camp, appeared by video link from HMP Belmarsh, while Pte Barrett, of Cottesmore, appeared in court in person.

At an earlier preliminary hearing, L/Cpl Vevhilainen pleaded not guilty to two further charges.

He denied posting material online that was threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby stirring up racial hatred, and possession of a document likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

The document is alleged to have been 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, written by Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in two terror attacks in Norway in 2011.

The third defendant previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of possession of a document likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, and one count of distributing a terrorist publication.