Former prison guard denies training terrorists in far-right fitness club

Healthy Body

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Ashley Podsiad-Sharp denies two terrorism charges at Sheffield Crown Court

A “neo Nazi” former prison guard has denied training terrorists in a far-right fitness club.

Ashley Podsiad-Sharp told a Sheffield Crown Court jury he set up White Stag Athletics Club to provide “a community” for lonely men with extreme right-wing views to lift weights and go hiking.

The 42-year-old lost his job at HMP Leeds in Armley after his arrest by counter-terrorism police in May 2022.

He is on trial for possessing and disseminating terrorist material.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Mr Podsiad-Sharp, from the Barnsley area, described himself as “a Christian and a national socialist” who opposed multiculturalism and believed there was no evidence Adolf Hitler had orchestrated the genocide of Jewish people in the Holocaust.

He admitted he thought “races have problems interacting with each other” and it was “better that we separate in some cases” but insisted he denounced the use of violence to pursue this aim.

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Ashley Podsiad-Sharp was a guard at HMP Leeds in Armley before his arrest

Prosecutors have alleged Mr Podsiad-Sharp, a married father-of-two who now works as a lorry driver, “idolises” Hitler, believes in “the supremacy of the white man” and had trained “like a soldier” for a race war.

A white supremacist handbook called the White Resistance Manual, which contains instructions on how to make explosives, was found on the defendant’s laptop, while knives, a bow and arrow, an axe and far-right books were discovered in his home.

‘Nationalist fitness club

Mr Podsiad-Sharp told the court he had been a moderator on an Telegram channel called Fascist Fitness, where he used the nickname Sarge, before setting up White Stag Athletics Club in 2020.

When asked by his barrister Peter Eguae if he had set up the club “to train up a group of individuals intent on violence,” the defendant denied having “any violent intent”.

He said the group had got fed up of “just meeting up with nationalists and getting a few beers down you and being miserable” and “decided to do something else,” including enjoying the countryside, boxing, climbing and ju jitsu.

Mr Podsiad-Sharp, who vetted members based on their political views, insisted the club was not involved in political activism.

He accepted he had sent the group music mocking the Holocaust by a rapper who was jailed in Austria for his racist and extreme ring-wing lyrics.

But he claimed it was “insulting” to suggest sharing the “comedic parody” songs was disseminating terrorist material.

“It’s how the national socialist sense of humour works,” he told the court. “I do not think that anybody in their right mind is going to listen to a rap song and be incited to terrorism.”

Mr Podsiad-Sharp has pleaded not guilty to disseminating a terrorist document and possession of a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

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