Boat race protester banned from torch route

LONDON (Reuters) - The protester who halted Britain's annual boat race this month by swimming into the crews' path has been banned by a court from going near the route of the Olympic torch for fear he could try to make a political point.

Australian Trenton Oldfield, 35, appeared in a London court on Monday on charges of causing a public nuisance when he dived into the River Thames and swam into the path of the boats from Oxford and Cambridge, forcing the race to be temporarily stopped.

Oldfield wrote in Twitter messages following his stunt that his aim was to protest about the inequality in the United Kingdom that in his view is perpetuated by elite institutions like Oxford and Cambridge.

Prosecutor Edmund Hall asked for specific bail conditions, arguing that Oldfield represented a threat to several high-profile London events, including the 2012 Olympics torch relay set to begin in mid-May. The London Games take place from July 27-August12.

"(Oldfield) seeks to entice other persons to commit similar acts to the one he is now charged with," Hall said, citing Oldfield's online manifesto, "Elitism Leads to Tyranny", in which he calls on citizens to disrupt the lives of government and corporate elites through acts of civil disobedience.

The passing of the Olympic torch "would be a cheap shot for certain people seeking to publicise a cause," Hall said.

Oldfield's attorney, Michael Schwarz, said the Olympics were safe from his client's protests because they "are a meritocratic institution".

But magistrates disagreed and among the conditions of bail were a ban on Oldfield coming within 100 metres of any road being used for the Olympic torch's path until his next hearing in late May.

Oldfield entered no plea and his case was referred to a higher court.

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