Three charged over attack on publisher's home

Three men will appear in court today accused of conspiring to damage the home of a man who published a controversial novel about the prophet Mohammed.

The Metropolitan Police charged unemployed Ali Beheshti, 40, phone salesman Abrar Mirza, 22, of Eastfield Road, Walthamstow, east London, and minicab driver Abbas Taj, 30, of Forest Gate, east London, last night.

The charges follow a suspected petrol bomb attack in Lonsdale Square, Islington, north London, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The property is the home and office of Martin Rynja, the director of Gibson Square, an independent publishing house which announced earlier this month it was planning to release The Jewel Of Medina in the UK.

The men are charged with conspiring without lawful excuse to damage the premises between September 8 and 27, intending to destroy or damage property with intent to endanger life, and being reckless as to whether the life of another would thereby be endangered.

Beheshti, of Tavistock Gardens, Ilford, east London, was further charged with "possession of a weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of a noxious liquid or gas contrary to the Firearms Act", police said.

The men will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

The Jewel Of Medina, by American author Sherry Jones, was pulled by publishers in the US over fears it would anger Muslims, while a publisher in Serbia withdrew it from the shelves after protests from local Islamic leaders, who said it insulted Mohammed and his family.

Announcing the publication of the novel last month, 44-year-old Mr Rynja said he felt such books were an important part of a liberal democracy.