Court 'cursed' as cartoon protester is convicted of incitement
Extremists screamed insults at an Old Bailey judge yesterday as a British Muslim was convicted of inciting murder during protests against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Umran Javed, 27, had shouted “Bomb, bomb USA” and “Jihad is the path to Allah” as he led a 300-strong crowd in chants during a demonstration in London last year.
The unemployed web designer was a prominent figure in the rally outside the Danish embassy at the height of worldwide Muslim anger at the appearance of the cartoons in a Danish newspaper.
Javed was remanded in custody to be sentenced in April after an Old Bailey jury found him guilty by a majority verdict of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. The offences are the same as those for which Abu Hamza al-Masri, the former imam of Finsbury Park mosque, was jailed for seven years. The maximum sentence for soliciting murder is life imprisonment.
There was uproar in court as the verdict was delivered and the Common Serjeant of London, Judge Brian Barker, QC, remanded Javed, a married father of one child, in custody.
One man was led from the public gallery by security guards after shouting: “Allahu Akbar [God is greatest], I curse the judge, the court, the jury, all of you.”
Other friends and supporters of Javed also shouted insults. Sitting with them was Parveen Sharif, 37, who was acquitted at the Old Bailey in 2005 of charges of failing to disclose information about the activities of her brother, Omar, who took part in a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv in 2003.
Ms Sharif is from Derby, where Javed was born and lived until he went to Aston University, Birmingham. He graduated with a degree in computer science in 2001 and remained in the city where he was a regular worshipper at Birmingham Central Mosque. Like Omar Sharif, 27, Javed had links with the recently banned group al-Muhajiroun, which was led by the extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad.
Javed was filmed by police speaking through a loudhailer outside the Danish Embassy during the protest in February 2006. He began by talking about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Kashmir and Chechnya, then accused non-Muslims of “declaring war” on the Muslim community. The jury saw Javed shouting: “We declare that we will not stand for what Denmark did, we will not stand for what France, for Europe, for the whole of the kuffar [non-believers], the Western world are united for.
They have declared war against the Muslim community for which they will pay a heavy price.” He referred to “the lessons of Theo van Gogh”, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered by an Islamist extremist, then led a series of chants including: “Denmark, you will pay, with your blood, with your blood”, “Bomb, bomb USA” and “Bomb, bomb Denmark”. He said that Denmark should take care because Zarqawi — a reference to the former al-Qaeda leader in Iraq — was “coming back”.
Javed made no comment during police interviews but testified at his trial saying he had no intention of calling for violence. He told the court: “I happened to be behind the person who was speaking.
The microphone was offered to me to continue the chanting and to keep the demonstration afloat. “I didn’t ask for the microphone and I didn’t intend to speak on the day. I was offered the microphone and I was completely unprepared. In the end I accepted it and I thought I would make a speech and say what I needed to say.
None of this was rehearsed. I said what I felt at the time. “Never, ever did I intend or have it in my mind to threaten anybody. I ran out of things to say and resorted to chants people were saying. There was emotionally charged situation and these are the kinds of chants people were saying. “I can understand with the benefit of hindsight why people have interpreted the things I said. But these were sayings and soundbites without any intention at all.”
David Perry, for the prosecution, said there could be no doubt that Javed had called for violence when he addressed the rally. Mr Perry said: “The words used were straight-forward and plain. If you shout out, ‘Bomb, bomb Denmark; bomb, bomb USA’, there is no doubt about what you intend your audience to understand.”