Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 16:21 UK

Driver guilty of firebombing plot

The house on Lonsdale Square
Abbas Taj waited in a car as the attack took place

A man has been found guilty of plotting to firebomb a publisher's north London home days before a novel about the Prophet Mohammed was published.

Abbas Taj, 30, from Forest Gate, east London, was convicted of conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life at Croydon Crown Court.

Two others, Ali Beheshti, 41, and Abrar Mirza, 23, admitted the same offence.

Martin Rynja's home in Lonsdale Square, Islington, was attacked on 27 September last year. Taj had denied the charge.

The attack took place days before the Jewel of Medina, which is about the Prophet's child bride A'isha, was due to be published in the UK.

During the trial the court heard how Taj, a minicab driver, waited in a car as the other two men poured diesel through the letterbox and lit a fire at Mr Rynja's home, which was also his office.

Publishing abandoned

Taj, Behesti, an unemployed man of Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, and Mirza, a mobile phone salesman from Eastfield Road, Walthamstow, were planning to spend the night at Regent's Park Mosque, in north London, as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But shortly after they arrived, the trio set out with "fire-making equipment" for Lonsdale Square.

Diesel bought by Beheshti was transferred to the boot of Taj's Honda Accord the evening before the arson attack, the court heard.

Taj and Beheshti, 41, then drove to pick up Mirza near the Queen's Road Mosque in Walthamstow.

Taj had claimed to have "no idea" about the plot and said he was simply "giving a lift" to the two men, an account the jury rejected.

Previously at the trial, 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 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.

Sentencing was adjourned until 5 or 6 July.

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Diesel was poured through the letterbox in Lonsdale Square, Islington



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