A man has been found guilty of carrying out antisemitic attacks on three Jews after travelling to north London from West Yorkshire.
Abdullah Qureshi’s targets included a 14-year-old boy on his way to school and a 64-year-old man, who was knocked out as he made his way to the synagogue.
The 30-year-old also hit a teacher in the head with a plastic bottle as he carried out the attacks over a two-hour period last August 18 in the Stamford Hill area, which is known for its orthodox Jew population.
Qureshi claimed “it was just a coincidence” his three victims were all wearing traditional orthodox Jewish clothing and said he lashed out after becoming “angrier and angrier” following a row in a shop.
But prosecutor Varinder Hayre suggested to Qureshi he travelled from his home in Dewsbury to target Jews because “you hate them”.
Following a trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in east London, District Judge John Law on Thursday found Qureshi guilty of inflicting religiously aggravated grievous bodily harm and two counts of religiously aggravated assault by beating.
“The three complainants not only were orthodox Jews but were clearly identifiable as such,” said the judge.
“I am drawn to the inescapable conclusion that their selection by this defendant was not a coincidence.”
Mr Law committed the case to Snaresbrook Crown Court for sentencing on December 8, granting Qureshi bail on the condition he does not enter the London borough of Hackney.
Qureshi had previously pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm on Jacob Lipschitz and assaulting Chaine Greenfeld, without the religiously aggravated element, in pleas initially accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
But prosecutors were allowed to reinstate the charges, including the religiously aggravated element, along with a further charge against then then 14-year-old boy, following complaints from campaigners.
Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Yasmin Lalani said: “We will not tolerate hate crime of any form in London.
“The Met has a zero-tolerance policy for hate crime.
“We want to build safe and strong communities where people say no to hate crime.”
Qureshi, playing Arabic music on his mobile phone, hit Mr Greenfeld in the head with a bottle as he stood in the street at around 6.40pm, the court was told.
“I felt shocked,” Mr Greenfield said while giving evidence from behind a screen.
“When I came home, I was quite traumatised and it traumatised my kids that their father was slapped like that in the road.”
Asked why he thought he was attacked, Mr Greenfeld said: “He wanted to attack me about I’m another religion – that I’m Jewish.
“It shouldn’t be happening another time to our community, to our religion, and it should be everything peaceful as I thought as a young child that London is a peaceful and safe place and as I said, it’s not really.”
Qureshi slapped the 14-year-old, who cannot be identified because of his age, as he walked to an orthodox Jewish school at about 7.45pm.
“The man said nothing to me and just slapped me and walked away,” the teenager said in a statement read in court.
“That’s not good for me or anyone who is Jewish or anyone else. That must not happen to anyone.”
The prosecutor said Mr Lipschitz, then 64, was walking to the synagogue at about 8.30pm when he was punched on the ear with “tremendous power”, causing him to hit his head on the wall of a building with “such force” it left him unconscious.
He was left with broken glasses, facial bruising, a sprained ankle and four breaks in his foot, which twisted as he collapsed.
Mr Lipschitz said he was “traumatised” by the attack and left with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I used to be walking the street tall and strong and confident and now I’m just a cowardly wreck. Any noise, I jump,” he said.
Asked why he believes he was targeted, Mr Lipschitz told the judge: “I imagine he didn’t like me, I will be honest with you, sir, because I’m Jewish.”
Qureshi was arrested after his father recognised him in a police appeal.
Officers found a message on his mobile called: “Dua for protection from your enemy.”
A dua is a type of Islamic prayer.
“Oh Allah, we ask You to restrain them by their necks and we seek refuge in You from their evil,” it read.
Ms Hayre suggested Qureshi considers Jewish people to be “evil” and his “enemy”.
“You don’t like Jewish people,” she said.
“When you attacked those people they were in vulnerable positions, by themselves. They were standing, facing you in Jewish clothing while they were on their own.”
But Qureshi said he has “nothing against Jewish people” and insisted: “It was just a coincidence.
“It was nothing to do with what clothing people were wearing. I was just angry.”
He claimed he grew “angrier and angrier” after an argument in a shop, adding: “I just lashed out because I was angry, wound up.”
Qureshi told the court he was in London to visit relatives and was staying overnight in the area because he found a cheap room at a hostel there.
He said he was “shopping for food” and sightseeing, “visiting the cemetery” and monuments on the day of the attacks.
“I didn’t mean any harm,” he said.
“I would like to apologise for any harm caused and the distress caused to Mr Greenfeld and Mr Lipschitz.”
A spokesman for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “This verdict begins to redress the serious harm caused to his victims and we expect the court to impose a sentence appropriate to the severity of his awful crimes.
“Today’s verdict also vindicates efforts made by Campaign Against Antisemitism, Shomrim and others to pressure the CPS into reinstating the aggravated charges after they were initially dropped.
“The CPS claimed that it did not have sufficient evidence to make out the antisemitic element of the crimes, but we disagreed and the court has now in effect found that we were right to do so.
“We are grateful to the CPS for making the case forcefully in court today and bringing about this outcome.”