Three men in the UK were convicted on Friday under the country’s incitement of hatred laws after distributing leaflets that said gay people should be given the death penalty.
The three men from Derby, who identify as Muslims and attempted to defend themselves by saying that they were speaking from the perspective of their religion, are the first to be prosecuted under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act since it came into effect in 2010.
The men, Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed, handed out leaflets in July, 2010, outside the Jama mosque, of which they are not members, as a reaction to a recent Pride celebration in the area. They also distributed those leaflets to nearby homes, posting them through letterboxes. While the three men said they had not meant they would personally take action against homosexuals, the court found the leaflets constituted an offence because they risked stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
One leaflet, entitled “Death Penalty?”, showed an image of a mannequin hanging by the neck from a noose, accompanied by references to homosexual sex.
“The death sentence is the only way this immoral crime can be erased from corrupting society and act as a deterrent for any other ill person who is remotely inclined in this bent way,” it said. The only dispute among “the classical authorities” of Islam was the method employed to carry out the death penalty, the leaflet claimed.
The men had admitted distributing the leaflets but pleaded not guilty to the charges. During the trial, the court heard that Ahmed had told police he did not believe that the views expressed in the Death Penalty? leaflet were wrong, but rather that they expressed what Islam says about homosexuality.
One witness told the jury he felt he was being targeted and feared he would “be burned”.
The men also distributed other leaflets that, recipients of the leaflets claimed, showed an overt intent to harass gay people.
The leaflets were called Gay – an acronym for God Abhors You – and Turn Or Burn.
One gay man, who gave evidence but cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he received the Turn Or Burn and Death Penalty? leaflets through the door of his home on two occasions.
He said the first leaflet, Turn Or Burn, made him feel “quite horrified” and it was after he received Death Penalty? that he called the police.
“They made me feel terrorised in my own home,” he said.
“Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street.”
Sentencing of the men was adjourned until February 10, with the court making clear that the men should expect jail time. Two other men were were found not guilty of the same charge.
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