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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
The angry young men jailed over protest
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs

Four men have been jailed in London for their part in a controversial protest at the height of the Muhammad cartoons row. But what did they do to end up in court?

Protesters against the Danish cartoons
Large protest: Placards and chanting

The protests in February 2006 over the Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad took the world by surprise.

But while many of the issues have not been resolved, one chapter has been closed with the jailing in London of four men who played key roles in a protest that shocked the British public in its vehemence and fury.

On 3 February 2006, as protests mounted around the world, some 300 people joined a march on the Danish Embassy in London.

Scores of young men and women carried provocative banners advocating Al Qaeda-inspired violent attacks against the UK and other countries. The British media had been among those who decided not to reprint the cartoons.

Of those 300 who took part, four were eventually identified from police surveillance and news reports and brought to trial.

Blood in Baghdad

Mizanur Rahman, a 24-year-old from the Tottenham area of north London, made a speech calling for British soldiers in Iraq to come home in body bags.

"We want to see their blood running in the streets of Baghdad," he told the crowd.

The march at the centre of the trial
Mizanur Rahman: Six years
Umran Javed: Six years
Abdul Muhid: Six years
Abdul Rahman Saleem: Four years

Before the march, he had two previous convictions for criminal damage involving sticking up posters.

In the first incident in 2002, he was arrested for covering an advertising hoarding depicting naked women.

His replacement declared: "Muslims Against Western Values", a poster then regularly distributed by the now proscribed group Al Muhajiroun.

Despite his arrest and charge following the protests, the court heard Rahman had remained involved in the loose network once headed by the radical cleric Omar Bakri.

For Rahman, John Burton argued his client was not a radical cleric but a na´ve and gullible young man who had "simply lost control".

Whether na´ve or not, his political beliefs had apparently fuelled a family split: Rahman's father had died while his son was on trial - and the two had a standing "difference in views", the court had heard.

'My aim is terror'

Umran Javed, 27, travelled from his home in Birmingham to take part. Like Rahman, he was convicted of both soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred.

Umran Javed
Umran Javed: "Bomb, bomb USA"

He took the microphone during the protest for just a few minutes - but his words were enough to give him a six-year jail sentence.

"Bomb, bomb Denmark, bomb bomb USA," he called as the mood became increasingly angry.

Javed appears to have been a key behind-the-scenes organiser for the Al Muhajiroun network.

When police raided his Birmingham home they found "piles" of promotional leaflets associated with both Al Muhajiroun and its successor organisations.

While Javed disputed the details of how many leaflets were found, one of them included the sign-off: "My name is terrorist, my game is terrorism, my aim is terror."

Man with prospects

Abdul Muhid, 25, also a Londoner, was convicted of two counts of soliciting to murder - and was also given six years.

He stewarded and distributed placards, one of which read: "Annihilate those who insult Islam".

Muhid was not a man without prospects. An academic young man, he was forced to give up his economics degree to find work to support his wife and daughter. He had a good job with a British Muslim body that monitors the standards of Halal meat.

In court his lawyer said there had been "no change" in Muhid's thinking - although he added his client did not believe violence was "the way of Islam".

Abdul Saleem, 32, was convicted on a single charge of inciting racial hatred and was sentenced to four years.

He had been filmed shouting through a loud hailer: "UK, USA, 7/7 on its way. UK you will pay, Bin Laden is on his way."

Abdul Rahman Saleem
Abdul Rahman Saleem: Four years

Saleem, a father of five, used his family people carrier as a base for the public address system, placing the speakers out of the sunroof.

Like the other men, he had not been short of chances in life. In mitigation, Rock Tansey QC read a letter from a Catholic woman who said she was shocked that her neighbour, a good family man, had been involved in the protest.

Saleem, she said, had never displayed signs of racism, and his children played with others from different backgrounds in multicultural East London.

In the case of each, there was no dispute that the men had individually felt deep hurt to their faith over the cartoons.

Lawyers for the men argued the heat and fire of their words should be judged in that context.

'Not a peaceful country'

Outside the court, feelings were running high. Some 60 supporters, divided into a group of young men and burka-clad women, chanted away denouncing the jail sentences.

Anjem Choudury, one of the march's organisers and fined in a separate case, claimed there was one law for Muslims and another for everyone else.

Mizanur Rahman
Mizanur Rahman: Called for soldiers to be killed

"This is not a peaceful country. Look at the words of [suicide bombers] Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer who took military action against the UK," he told reporters.

"The more you put Muslims under pressure, the more problems there will be."

In his sentencing, Judge Brian Barker, the Common Serjeant of London, took a different view of the nature of protest.

"Freedoms of speech and assembly have long been jealously guarded by our laws - but with freedom comes respect and responsibility, neither of which was demonstrated by you or your hardcore of protesters," he said.

As they were sent down Javed looked tired and drawn, having rarely looked up at the judge during the morning. Muhid smiled and waved resignedly to a dozen supporters in the public gallery.


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