Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 17:11 UK

Three jailed for publisher arson

(L-R) Abbas Taj, Ali Beheshti and Abrar Mirza
Taj had claimed to have "no idea" about the plot

Three men have been jailed for an arson attack at the home of a publisher days before his novel about the Prophet Muhammad was due to be published.

Martin Rynja's home in Islington, north London, was targeted on 27 September last year.

Abbas Taj, 30, Ali Beheshti, 41, and Abrar Mirza, 23, from east London, were each jailed for four-and-a-half years.

They were convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

The attack took place as the Jewel of Medina, a novel about the Prophet's child bride A'isha, was to be published in the UK.

The trial at Croydon Crown 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.

Fire-making equipment

Taj, Behesti, and Mirza, 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 the home.

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 then drove to pick up Mirza near the Queen's Road Mosque in Walthamstow.

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

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.

Beheshti, of Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, and Mirza, of East Field Road, Walthamstow, had admitted conspiracy to commit arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered, at an earlier court hearing.

Taj, 31, had pleaded not guilty to the same charge, but was found guilty by a jury after a trial at Croydon Crown Court in May.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command and senior national co-ordinator counter terrorism, said: "These men planned to carry out arson as a violent reaction and protest against the publishing of a book.

"They did not care whether anybody would be killed or injured when they poured diesel through the letterbox and set fire to it."

The three had been sentenced at the Royal Courts of Justice.



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Driver 'waited for firebombers'
28 Apr 09 |  London
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21 Apr 09 |  London
Prophet Muhammad novel scrapped
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