A FORMER Afghan soldier who was once threatened with death by the Taliban was caught on CCTV brandishing a sledge hammer during a dispute with a group of men on a Nelson street.

Blackburn magistrates watched CCTV footage of the incident which showed Hayatullah Zai swinging the weapon after getting it out of the boot of his car.

Zai, 30, of Walton Lane, Nelson, pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon in Percy Street.

He was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work and pay a £115 victim surcharge, as well as £85 costs.

Philip Turner, defending, said his client had served with the Afghan army alongside the US forces.

Both his father and his brother had been killed by the Taliban and he was approached by a member of the organisation who tried to persuade him to leave the government forces and join them

"When he refused he was told by this man he would be seeking permission from the Taliban hierarchy to kill him," said Mr Turner.

"It is against that background that he ended up in this country where he has been granted asylum and permanent residence."

Mr Turner said Zai was not allowed to claim benefits and was happy to work as a landscape gardener to support his family in this country and his mother who was still in Afghanistan.

He had done some work on Percy Street and was asked to return and do some more by a woman who rented out a house on the street.

"He had gone to discuss the job when he was confronted by the tenant who became abusive and said he didn't want him there," said Mr Turner.

"He says he was assaulted by this man and when he protested a group of other males quickly came on the scene.

"He stood up to these men. He was abused and attacked and in the heat of the moment, fearing for his own safety, he armed himself with something that was legitimately in the boot of his car."

Mr Turner said the landlord and landlady, for who he had already done some work, came out and asked the other group what they were doing attacking their builder.

"My client believed he was the victim and phones the police and claimed he had been assaulted," said Mr Turner.

"He referred the police to the CCTV camera, believing he was the victim and had done nothing wrong. The police arrested him after viewing the CCTV but there have been no complaints of assault except by my client."