Mizanur Rahman, 24, Umran Javed, 27, and Abdul Muhid 25, were convicted of incitement to murder and sentenced to six years each. During a February 2006 protest in front of the Danish Embassy in London, they had called for the deaths of those responsible for the publication of the cartoons, judge Brian Barker said.
A fourth defendant, Abdul Saleem, 32, was sentenced to four years in prison for inciting racial hatred.
Jyllands-Posten, Page 3 of culture section, Sept., 2005.
The cartoons can be viewed here.
The defendants, who were convicted in separate trials, had argued that they were venting their rage at the cartoons, which they considered an assault on Islam, and did not intend to incite murder. But Barker called their actions “the complete opposite of peaceful protest.”
“No one is entitled to propagate an ideology of destruction and death,” he said. “However deep your belief, that is not an excuse for breaking the law of the land.”
The four were among a crowd of 200-300 demonstrators which converged on the embassy, waving placards which read: “Massacre those who insult Islam” and “Prepare for the real holocaust” and chanting: “UK, you will pay, Islam is on its way.”
Some commentators criticized the police who monitored the protest for not intervening to arrest the demonstrators immediately. The defendants argued that, had they known what their actions were illegal, they would have stopped.
Barker rejected those criticisms, saying that moving to thwart the protesters could have sparked violence, adding that the defendants knew “perfectly well” what they were doing.
Prosecutors said that free speech did not extend to inciting murder.
“If you march down the streets of London calling for people to be beheaded and for European cities to be bombed, you have crossed a line,” Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald said in a statement.
Outside the court, 30-40 demonstrators gathered around Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the outlawed militant group al-Ghurabaa and one of the organizers of the cartoon protest. Yelling into a loudspeaker to a throaty chorus of “Allahu Akbar,” Choudary accused the British government of waging a crusade against Islam.
“There is a consequence for nations when they do this type of thing,” he said, before leading the crowd in a prayer for the “mujaheddin” fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Muslims held demonstrations around the world after the publication of the cartoons, which showed the prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban, clutching a dagger or berating a group of suicide bombers.
Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depiction of the prophet for fear it could lead to idolatry.