Three Muslim men from Derby have been jailed for distributing leaflets intended to stir up hatred against gays.
Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed were found guilty of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation at Derby Crown Court.
Ali was jailed for two years. Ahmed and Javed have both been given 15-month sentences.
The men had distributed a leaflet entitled ‘The Death Penalty?’ outside their mosque ahead of a gay Pride parade.
The BBC reports Judge John Burgess saying: “You have been convicted of intending to stir up hatred.
“It follows that your intention was to do great harm in a peaceful community.”
“Much has been said during the course of this trial about freedom of expression, and the freedom to preach strongly held beliefs; beliefs, which may have some foundation in scripture.
“Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy and a basic ingredient of any free society.
“Parliament clearly had this very much in mind when this legislation was passed.”
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: “Gay people in Derby – and their friends and families – will feel relieved to see these extremists kept away from the community that they terrified with their deeply offensive and threatening leaflets.
“This whole case vindicates Stonewall’s long fight to secure specific legal protection for gay people against incitement to hatred.”
The ‘Death Penalty?’ leaflet contained an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Muslim texts suggesting death was the way to rid society of homosexuality.
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, and 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.
Ahmed had told Derby Crown 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.”