The trial of five men accused of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation begins today.
The defendants are accused of breaking new laws by handing out leaflets calling for gays to be executed.
Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, had been charged in December 2010.
The men were accused of handing out leaflets called ‘The Death Penalty?’ outside a Derby mosque.
The material reportedly said that gay people should be executed. The defendants were also accused of pushing the pamphlet through letterboxes.
The five have been charged under the Public Order Act 1986’s new provisions against distributing threatening material intended to stir up hatred based on sexual orientation.
At a crown court, they face up to seven years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Sue Hemming, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, said last year: “The charges relate to the distribution of a leaflet, ‘The Death Penalty?’, outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July 2010 and through letterboxes during the same month.
“This is the first-ever prosecution for this offence and it is the result of close working between the Crown Prosecution Service and Derbyshire Police.”
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.
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said at the time of the initial charges: “We welcome the Attorney General’s decision to allow this prosecution to go ahead. We lobbied for a number of years for a specific law to protect gay people, matching offences against inciting racial and religious hatred.
“Materials like the leaflets posted to homes in Derby create fear and inflame hatred and violence towards gay people. We uncovered a range of similar materials during our campaign to secure much-needed legal protections in this area.”