‘If you choose to live in this country, you live by its rules’, says judge as she jails Muslim extremists for arson attack on publisher’s home
Three men were today jailed for an arson attack on a publisher after discovering he was going to produce a book about the Prophet Mohammed and his child bride.
Martin Rynja had the door to his home in Lonsdale Square, Islington, north London, doused in diesel and set ablaze in September last year.
Ali Beheshti and Abrar Mirza admitted, and Abbas Taj was found guilty of, planning the attack on Gibson Square Books Ltd.
In the days before the arson attack Jones’ book had been likened to The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, which provoked a storm of protest in the Muslim world.Â
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Abrar Mirza, Abbas Taj and Ali Beheshti (l-r) were sentenced to four and a half years in jail each
Today Mrs Justice Rafferty, sitting at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, sentenced each of them to four and a half years in jail at London’s Royal Courts of Justice.
As he jailed them she said: ‘If you choose to live in this country, you live by its rules’.
During the Croydon Crown Court trial, the court heard how Taj, a minicab driver, waited in a car as the other two men poured diesel through the letterbox and lit a fire at Mr Rynja’s home, which was also his office.
Taj, of Field Road, Forest Gate; Beheshti, unemployed, of Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, and Mirza, a mobile phone salesman, of Eastfield Road, Walthamstow, were planning to spend the night at the Regent’s Park Mosque as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But shortly after they arrived, the trio set out for Lonsdale Square with ‘fire-making equipment’.
Diesel bought by Beheshti was transferred to the boot of Taj’s Honda Accord the evening before the arson attack.
The defendents used diesel as an accelerant, causing damage to the front door of the publisher’s house
Ali Beheshti had previously used his baby daughter to spread a message of support for Al Qaeda
Taj claimed to have ‘no idea’ about the plot and said he was simply ‘giving a lift’ to the two other men, an account the jury rejected.
The Jewel of the Medina traces the life of A’isha, Mohammed’s first and favourite wife.Â
It tells of her marriage aged nine to the much older Mohammed, and how she uses her wits, courage and sword to defend her position as he takes another 12 wives and concubines.Â
While the basic facts of the narrative are generally accepted, critics say it ‘misinterprets and falsifies sacred history’ by adding fictional scenes.Â
Most controversially, it includes a description of the night Mohammed and A’isha consummate their marriage.Â
Mr Rynja agreed to publish the novel after Random House cancelled a Â£54,000 deal, fearing a violent reaction by ‘a small radical segment’ of Muslims.Â
Beheshti has hit the news before for his extremist tendencies when his baby daughter was pictured wearing a hat with the slogan ‘I love Al Qaeda’ when he took her along to a protest against Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
He proudly called her ‘the youngest member of al Qaeda’ and waved banners vowing to ‘Massacre those who insult Islam’ and promising ‘Europe, your 9/11 will come’.
Beheshti, who has a previous conviction for the attempted murder of his own father, also set fire to his hands with petrol outside the U.S. embassy during the same protest.
Barrister Andrew Hall QC, for Beheshti, argued today in mitigation that the arson attack was ‘an act of protest born of the publication of a book felt by him and other Muslims to be disrespectful, provocative and offensive.
‘He wishes me to say now, publicly, that he considers his conduct to have been misguided, disproportionate and counter-productive.’
Ali Beheshti poses with a gun in this Metropolitan Police photo
Joel Bennathan QC, for Mirza, said the attack was a ‘protest which crossed the line into criminality’ and told the judge ‘it was a low risk fire’.
David Waters QC, for Taj, who played a lesser role as driver, said: ‘He was by nature a non-political person. He was very much a lesser party to this and got involved at a late stage.’
Mrs Justice Rafferty, sentencing the three, said: ‘If you chose to live in this country, you live by it’s rules.
Novel ‘The Jewel of Medina’ motivated the extremists to commit the arson attack
There is no such thing as “a la carte citizenship” and, in your case, there is no such thing as a la carte obedience to the law.
‘I do not accept that your plan was restricted to firing the door but not the premises.Â Â Â
‘The object, was according to you, to protest or, according to the Crown, to punish the owner of Gibson Square Publishing for taking on The Jewel of Medina.
‘He, principled man that he is, had done two things – exercised critical judgement on a literary work, and stood up to be counted, knowing that publishing it put him at risk.
‘As he said, in an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear.
‘Whatever label it attracts, the attitude of you three was an aggravating feature.
‘The public must hear that deterrence is built in to the sentence and the term of years you must serve will reflect that,’ the judge concluded, handing down terms of four and a half years to each man.
The 277 days each has spent on remand was ordered to count towards those sentences.
The book is available in both the UK and U.S.