Three jailed for UK attack on Mohammad book firm

Tue Jul 7, 2009 3:53pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Three men were jailed Tuesday for plotting to firebomb the London home of the publisher of a controversial novel about the Prophet Mohammad's child bride, Scotland Yard said.

Ali Beheshti, 41, Abrar Mirza, 23, and Abbas Taj, 31, were each sentenced to 4-1/2 years for the planned attack on the house in north London where Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja lived and had an office.

The attack last September took place shortly before Gibson Square was due to publish "The Jewel of Medina" by journalist Sherry Jones, which traces the life of child bride Aisha from her engagement at the age of six to the prophet's death.

The building suffered minor fire damage after Beheshti and Mirza poured diesel fuel through the letterbox.

The two men had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson and recklessly endanger life at a hearing at Croydon Crown Court in south London in April.

Taj, who had denied the charges, was found guilty the following month at the same court.

"These men planned to carry out arson as a violent reaction and protest against the publishing of a book," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall after the sentencing.

"They did not care whether anybody would be killed or injured when they poured diesel through the letterbox and set fire to it," added McDowall, who is head of Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command.

Gibson Square bought the rights to the novel after Random House dropped plans to publish it, fearing it could "incite acts of violence."

Jones said her book was respectful to Islam, and Rynja said last October the novel was not offensive and that he felt its publication was part of a liberal democracy.

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Sophie Hares)

<p>Ali Beheshti, 41, is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Metropolitan Police/Handout</p>