LONDON (Reuters) - Three British Muslim men were found guilty on Friday of stirring up hatred by distributing leaflets calling for the death of homosexuals in what prosecutors said was a landmark case.
The men, from Derby, had posted and handed out pamphlets near their local mosque with the title "Death Penalty?" featuring a mannequin hanging from a noose and saying gay people would to go to hell.
The leaflets were part of a protest by a group of Muslim men against a forthcoming Gay Pride parade in the city.
Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed became the first people in Britain to be found guilty under a law introduced in 2010 making it an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The jury at Derby Crown Court heard how one witness had felt he was being targeted and feared he would be burned, said Sue Hemming from the Crown Prosecution Service.
"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," she said in a statement.
"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."
Gay rights group Stonewall said the case vindicated their call for specific legislation to protect homosexuals.
"We're satisfied to see these extremists convicted for distributing offensive and inflammatory leaflets that suggested gay people should be burnt or stoned to death," said Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive.
The men will be sentenced on February 10.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison