A deadly plot by Islamic fundamentalists for a bloody confrontation with the English Defence League in Dewsbury was inspired by “freely available extremist material”, a judge has said.
Six men were jailed at the Old Bailey after travelling to the Dewsbury rally in June last year armed with an arsenal of weapons including two shotguns, swords, knives, a nail bomb and a partially-assembled pipe bomb.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC told the men: “ How was it that you became involved in a crime of this gravity? At least part of the answer to that question must come in the tide of apparently freely available extremist material in which most of you had immersed yourselves.”
Jewel Uddin, 27, Omar Mohammed Khan, 31, Mohammed Hasseen, 24, Anzal Hussain, 25, Mohammed Saud, 23, and Zohaib Ahmed, 22, who are all from the West Midlands, admitted planning the attack at a hearing on April 30.
Khan, Uddin and Ahmed were jailed for 19-and-a-half years with an extended licence period of five years, and the other three were given jail terms of 18 years and nine months and an extended licence period of five years.
EDL leader Tommy Robinson and his deputy Kevin Carroll called out “God save the Queen” from the public gallery at the end of today’s hearing.
A woman broke down in tears, while supporters of the defendants shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
The judge said the extremist material was “not difficult either to obtain or share”.
He said: “In this case, it can only have served to reinforce the defendants’ resolve to behave in the hideous way that was planned”.
All the men will serve at least two-thirds of the jail terms before they can be considered for parole.
They were imprisoned today on the third day of the sentencing process.
All of the men except Hasseen travelled to Dewsbury where an EDL rally was taking place on June 30 last year, ready to cause mass injuries and deaths.
The gang’s plan failed only because the event finished earlier than expected - they arrived at around 4pm when it was over shortly after 2pm.
Judge Hilliard said: “There is no reason to suppose that a further attempt may not have been made in the future had the defendants not been apprehended. I find it inconceivable that your resolve would have evaporated.”
He went on:” You intended to engage in a violent confrontation with those attending the EDL rally and use the weapons and the IED (improvised explosive device) to cause serious injuries, and you anticipated that some victims may have died.”
As well as targeting EDL supporters, police officers and members of the public could have been caught up in the bloodshed, the court heard.
The judge said that if the attack had succeeded, it could have sparked “a spiral of tit-for-tat violence”.
He said: “That is a particularly serious aspect of this case. That simply cannot be an aspect of life in a society where the overwhelming majority choose to live in harmony with their fellow men and women.”
Hasseen admitted a separate charge of possessing extremist documents, for which he was given two years to run concurrently.
Ahmed was also convicted last September of possessing such material, and had been released on bail eight days before the planned attack as he faced that charge.
Two of the men, Khan and Uddin, were stopped by chance as they travelled back to Birmingham from Dewsbury after their bloody plan had failed.
A police officer pulled their Renault Laguna over because it looked old, and the car was flagged up as uninsured because the gang had entered the registration number incorrectly on an online form by one digit.
The car was taken to a pound near Sheffield and it was two days later that staff there discovered the plotters’ deadly arsenal.
As well as the weapons, they had 10 copies of a hate-filled note referring to David Cameron and the Queen.
The note was addressed to the enemies of Allah and his messenger and referred to the Queen as the “kafir (non-believer) female devil”.
It also called the EDL the English Drunkards League, and in a direct message said: “O enemies of Allah! We have heard and seen you openly insulting the final Messenger of Allah ... you should know that for every action there is a reaction.
“Today is a day of retaliation (especially) for your blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad. We love death more than you love life. The penalty for blasphemy of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad is death.”
It called on Muslim youth to rise up and defend their faith.
The judge said he had seen and heard material linked to Islamophobic obscenities used at some EDL events, but violence was not the right response.
“Unlawful violence of any kind, and foul and inflammatory insults of a racial nature or directed towards a particular religious group deserve at the least unequivocal condemnation, whoever or whatever the source,” he said.
“I acknowledge the unrest and enormous distress such behaviour gives rise to. But as a response, more unlawful violence is not on the list of options.”
He said he had given “anxious consideration” as to whether to jail the men for life, but by “a narrow margin” could instead impose extended sentences.
These are used when there is a perceived continuing risk of danger to the public.
The six defendants received a reduction of a quarter in their jail terms for pleading guilty before a trial was due to start.
West Midlands assistant chief constable Marcus Beale said: “These six were extremely dangerous men who planned a despicable attack on the English Defence League (EDL) up in Dewsbury.
“The methods they were using with their improvised explosive bomb, the firearms, the knives, would have almost certainly killed people - they’d have definitely maimed people.
“It was a horrible attack and it would have had a profound effect on many of our communities.
“They are evil people and they are rightly now in prison.”