Three Derby men jailed for anti-gay leaflets

Three men became the first in Britain to be jailed under new anti-hate laws yesterday after being found guilty of distributing a leaflet calling for the execution of homosexuals.

Taxi driver Ihjaz Ali, 42, was sentenced to two years while Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed, both 28, received 15 months each for handing out leaflets around a mosque and in neighbouring streets in opposition to a planned Gay Pride march in Derby in 2010. Judge John Burgess said that because this was the first prosecution of its kind he had no guidelines when handing down a sentence. But he said it had been the men's intention "to do great harm in a peaceful community". He added: "I am obviously keen to dissuade anyone from distributing this sort of material in the future."

During the two-week case at Derby Crown Court last month, the men denied the charges against them, claiming they were merely repeating Islam's position on homosexuality. They were arrested only months after new legislation made it an offence to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, the judge said the new laws sought to protect rather than suppress legitimate freedom of expression.

He added that it had been "heartening" to hear one victim describe how he had received support from neighbours and that local residents had not changed their attitudes as a result of receiving the leaflets.

One of the pamphlets entitled The Death Penalty? showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts claiming that capital punishment was necessary to rid society of homosexuality.

It said: "The death sentence is the only way this immoral crime can be erased from corrupting society and act as a deterrent for any other ill person who is remotely inclined in this bent way." Two other leaflets called Gay - an acronym for "God Abhors You" – and Turn or Burn were distributed around the same time. A fourth leaflet – Dead Derby – was also found by police but was not distributed.

Jurors were told that the leaflets were not informative or educational but were simply "threatening, offensive, frightening and nasty". Mehboob Hussain, 45, and Javed's brother Umar Javed, 38, a married takeaway worker, were both cleared of distribution charges.