EQUALITY groups and politicians reacted with fury, after two Gwent men abused a Muslim man on Facebook.

As the Argus reported on Thursday, labourer James Rogers, 21, of Deepweir, Caldicot and his friend Richard Orzel,29, a plasterer from Kensington Gardens, Newport, pleaded guilty to making offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing comments on a public electronic communications network on March 25.

The pair were told by District Judge Richard Williams, at Cwmbran Magistrates' Court, that they had put "corrosive and offensive" words into the public domain, after they mocked and threatened violence towards a Muslim man Rogers saw praying at Magor services.

Rogers mocked the unknown man, calling him a "rag head" and said the sight of him praying "made him sick," while Orzel suggested he would "spit on the ****."

Rogers and Orzel were handed 28 day prison sentences, suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.

Ian George, defending the pair, described the exchange as "a bit of banter."

But a Newport equality group hit out at that comment. David Phillips, CEO of SEWREC (South East Wales Regional Equality Council), said: "I fail to see how such comments could be described as banter among decent people.

"The majority of people are quite clear that racism is unacceptable, but there are a minority that still need to learn, it is important that they learn it sooner rather than later.

"SEWREC is seriously concerned about the way in which social media is being increasingly used in anti-social ways whether that is to promote racism, to perpetrate harassment or to bully.

"But we are very pleased with the response of Gwent Police and the South Wales Argus who have recognised that real crimes with real consequences can take place in virtual communities on line."

Mohammad Asghar AM, Shadow Minister for Equalities and Sport, said: "I welcome the verdict in this trial. Racism is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in any form and that includes comments made on social network sites. I hope this will serve as a warning to others that freedom of speech is no defence in such cases."