Three anti-gay leaflet defendants guilty

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Three of the defendants accused of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation have been found guilty by a jury in Derby.

Five Muslim men stood trial at Derby Crown Court on the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and an unlimited fine.

They are the first convictions under the newly-created laws.

Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed had distributed a leaflet entitled ‘The Death Penalty?’ outside their mosque ahead of a gay Pride parade.

It contained an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Muslim texts.

The Public Order Act 1986 was amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to create the offence of intentionally stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. This was the first-ever trial under the offence.

In order to convict, the jury had to be convinced the leaflets were not just insulting or abusive, but were “threatening”, and were distributed with the intention of stirring up hatred.

Umer Javed, 38 and Mehboob Hassain, 45 were acquitted by the jury.

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division said: “A court has heard for the first time from witnesses how they felt, as gay men, when they read a leaflet calling for the death penalty for homosexuals.

“The leaflet which led to this prosecution showed a manikin hanging from a noose and said gay people were destined to go to hell. The jury was told by one witness that he felt he was being targeted and he feared he would ‘be burned’.

“Everyone has a right to be protected by the law and we regard homophobic crimes, along with all hate crimes, as particularly serious because they undermine people’s right to feel safe.

“While people are entitled to hold extreme opinions which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious, they are not entitled to distribute those opinions in a threatening manner intending to stir up hatred against gay people.

“This case was not about curtailing people’s religious views or preventing them from educating others about those views; it was that any such views should be expressed in a lawful manner and not incite others to hatred.”

Ahmed, 28, had claimed the wording and images in the leaflets, handed out in Normanton ahead of a gay Pride march, were not threatening.

He had told the court: “We are living in a society and if we don’t stop it, something like a tsunami will happen here, something on that scale.”

He added: “We are trying to stand and voice on these issues. I am part of this country – I was born here.

“You can think of it as a little vigilante thing.”

Ahmed had told the court he saw it as his “duty as a Muslim to spread what God says about homosexuality. The references on the leaflets are historical facts and quote from the Koran.”

Gay men appeared in Derby Crown Court to tell of their experience receiving the leaflets, which questioned whether gays should be executed.

One believed he was the victim of a hate campaign, and said: “They made me feel terrorised in my own home. Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street.”

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: “We’re satisfied to see these extremists convicted for distributing offensive and inflammatory leaflets that suggested gay people should be burnt or stoned to death.

“This case vindicates Stonewall’s long fight to secure specific legal protection for gay people against incitement to hatred. Witnesses told the court they felt threatened and deeply fearful in their own homes.

“People from all communities will feel safer knowing that the law now makes it harder to stir up hatred and violence against gay people.”

Ali, Ahmed and Javed will be sentenced on 10 February 2012.