Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 16:35 UK

Firebomb case publisher testifies

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

A publisher whose home was firebombed days before the publication of a novel about the Prophet Muhammad has told a court the book was "well-researched".

Martin Rynja, owner of Gibson Square Books, said it aimed to increase understanding of the seventh century.

Cab driver Abbas Taj, 30, from Forest Gate, east London, denies conspiring to recklessly damage property and endanger life in Lonsdale Square, north London.

Ali Beheshti and Abrar Mirza admitted the same charge in Croydon Crown Court.

The book, the Jewel of Medina, is about the Prophet's wife A'isha.

The court heard Mr Taj waited in a car as the other two men poured diesel through the letterbox and lit a fire at Mr Rynja's Islington home, which was also his office, on 27 September 2008.

'Reconnaissance' missions

Prosecutor David Waters QC said publisher Random House had planned to print the novel but abandoned the plans over concerns about offending Muslims.

Speaking at Mr Taj's trial, Mr Rynja said he decided to print the novel in the UK after reading it and speaking to its American author Sherry Jones.

He said: "I felt it was a book that was well-researched and was trying to bridge the gap in our understanding of that period."

Earlier, Mr Waters said Beheshti, who is unemployed and from Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, and Mirza, a mobile phone salesman from Eastfield Road, Walthamstow, had visited the property twice before the attack - on 9 and 14 September.

Officers found two phones from Mr Taj's car which had photos of the target.

Mr Rynja told the court the house did not have any sign identifying it as an office.

He added that during the second reconnaissance visit in the afternoon he and his partner were at home and were entertaining guests.

Mr Taj was not with the other men when they visited the property before the actual attack, the court heard.

The trial continues.

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