Three Men Jailed Over Gay Hate Leaflets

Lisa Dowd, Midlands correspondent

Three Muslim men have been jailed for handing out leaflets calling for gay people to be killed.

In a landmark case last month, Ihjaz Ali, 42, Kabir Ahmed, 28 and Razwan Javed, 28, were found guilty of breaching hate crime legislation by distributing the leaflets outside a mosque and posting them through letterboxes in the Normanton area of Derby.

Ali was sentenced to two years in prison at Derby Crown Court, while Ahmed and Javed were jailed for 15 months. Two other men, Mehboob Hussain, 45 and Umar Javed, 38, were previously acquitted of the same charge.

The trio are the first people to be convicted of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexuality since new legislation came into force in 2010.

The men admitted distributing the flyers but claimed they were not "threatening" and denied they were designed to cause trouble for homosexuals.

One leaflet, entitled 'Death Penalty?', had an image of a mannequin hanging by the neck from a noose printed on it.

It stated that in 1533 homosexuality was punishable by hanging in England and that if practised in a town, "Allah permits its destruction".

Derby Crown Court heard "many people" had complained to police about receiving the leaflets, which were distributed in the run up to a gay pride event in the city in July 2010.

Gay people who received the leaflets were horrified.

One man, who did not want to be named, told Sky News: "They incite violence and I would even say it's incitement to murder.

"It lists various methods of executing homosexuals from burning alive, stoning, hanging or being thrown from a tall building and I felt that was directed at me.

"My initial thoughts were that I was actually being targeted by an individual, it really was quite frightening. It's a very, very scary image especially when you realise what the message is," he said.

The man said other leaflets were also given out.

"Another was titled 'Turn or Burn' and the front of it was an image of a sea of fire," he said.

"But more disturbing was the reverse side, where there was the picture apparently of a human body burning in flames."

The man said the leaflets had had a lasting impact on his life.

He said: "It happened 18 months ago and I'm still feeling very insecure in my own house. I'm suspicious of strangers on the street, strange cars.

"I really avoid going out after dark because I never know when somebody is going to respond to a leaflet by possibly attacking me.

"Apart from the cultural and religious aspects of it, I feel there are some gullible people in the wider community who will read literature like that and take it as a green light to commit violence."

During the trial, the court heard that one gay man was so frightened by the leaflets that he left his home for a week.

Another man, who also wished to remain anonymous, told Sky News: "I'm still looking when I'm walking down the street to see if someone is following me or when I go to bed I think, 'is someone going to do something to my letterbox?

"It's just a nightmare. You can't sleep at night it's a big worry."

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which came into force in 2010, made it an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

After the verdicts in January, Sue Hemming, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service 's special crime and counter-terrorism division, said: "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."