Historic prosecution begins in Britain over anti-gay leaflets
BRITAIN: Five men have faced court this week in Derby, England after allegedly handing out leaflets calling for the death penalty for gay people in what is Britain’s first ever prosecution under new laws banning the stirring up of hatred based on sexual orientation.
The defendants – Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hassain, 45, Umer Javed, 38, Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27 – are accused of distributing leaflets outside a Derby mosque as well as into people’s letterboxes after police refused permission for the men to hold a counter-protest to a gay pride march in Derby in 2010, the Daily Mail reports.
Three different leaflets were produced under the titles, ‘Death Penalty?’, ‘Turn or Burn’ and ‘GAY – God Abhors You’.
Each of the defendants faces up to seven years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Prosecutor Bobbie Cheema told Derby Crown Court that the pamphlets were threatening, with witnesses adding that they believed they were being specifically targeted.
"These five defendants were part of a small group who distributed horrible, threatening literature, with quotations from religious sources and pictures, which were designed to stir up hostile feelings against homosexual people,” Cheema told the jury.
The men were all charged under Britain’s Public Order Act 1986, which was amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to create the offence of intentionally stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, PinkNews reports.
Dr Alan Berman, an Australian law expert at the University of Newcastle, told SX that the men’s alleged actions would constitute a defiance of anti-vilification laws in Australia but that as far as he was aware no case had ever been launched in this country on grounds of sexual orientation.
“There has never been any convictions in any jurisdiction in Australia for serious vilification resulting in criminal sanctions,” he said.
Pictured: A court sketch of three of the accused men.