Page last updated at 17:59 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 18:59 UK

Driver 'waited for firebombers'

The house on Lonsdale Square
The property is the home and office of Gibson Square director Martin Rynja

A cab driver waited in a car while two men firebombed the home of the publisher of a novel about Prophet Muhammad, Croydon Crown Court heard.

Abbas Taj, 30, from Forest Gate, east London, waited as the men poured diesel through a letterbox at Martin Rynja's home in Islington, north London.

Ali Beheshti and Abrar Mirza have admitted conspiring to recklessly damage property and endanger life.

Mr Taj, who denies the same charge, knew about the plot, the court heard.

The Islington home of Mr Rynja, a Gibson Square publisher, was attacked on 27 September 2008, just before the release of The Jewel of Medina.

The book is about Prophet Muhammad's child bride A'isha.

'Reconnaissance' drives

David Waters QC, prosecuting, said Beheshti - an unemployed man from Tavistock Gardens, Ilford - and Mirza - a mobile phone salesman from Eastfield Road, Walthamstow - had visited the property twice, soon after hearing about plans to release the book the UK.

Officers found two phones from minicab driver Mr Taj's car which had photos of the target, the court heard.

Mr Waters said: "Although he may not have been recruited very long before this, Taj was clearly a knowing party to the proposed arson."

The diesel to fuel the arson was stored in the boot of Mr Taj's car on the day of the attack, the court heard.

He and Beheshti picked up Mirza near the Queens Road Mosque in Walthamstow and then visited the Regent's Park Mosque, before reaching Lonsdale Square in the early hours of 27 September, jurors were told.

The car was seen making "two reconnaissance or drive-throughs" before parking nearby, the court heard.

"It is also the vehicle which would have allowed the defendant to make a speedy getaway from the scene of the crime if they hadn't been arrested within minutes," Mr Waters said.

"Taj's role was as the driver of that vehicle."

When the car stopped, Beheshti and Mirza approached the house and Beheshti was seen pouring something through the letterbox and lighting it.

Police had alerted people who usually lived in the house of a possible attack and arrested the pair after seeing them start the fire.

The prosecutor said Mr Taj drove away as his accomplices were arrested.

The trial continues.

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