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Monday May 20th, 2019 8:46PM

Man who drove van into Muslims in London convicted of murder

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — A man who steeped himself in far-right, anti-Muslim ideas before driving a van into a crowd of worshippers near a north London mosque was convicted Thursday of murder and attempted murder.

A jury at London's Woolwich Crown Court deliberated for just an hour before finding 48-year-old Darren Osborne guilty of the June 2017 attack in the city's Finsbury Park neighborhood.

A 51-year-old man, Makram Ali, was killed and 15 people were injured when a rented van plowed into worshippers gathering after evening prayers during Ramadan.

Prosecutors said Osborne was motivated by extreme Islamophobia and saw Muslims as extremists or rapists in pedophile gangs.

Several men who witnessed the attack pinned Osborne to the ground until police arrived. He was heard to say "I want to kill more Muslims," prosecutor Jonathan Rees told the jury during the 10-day trial.

Another witness reported Osborne saying, "I've done my job, you can kill me now."

Osborne, of Cardiff, Wales, had pleaded not guilty. He claimed a man named Dave was driving the van when it struck the crowd. Prosecutors argued that Dave did not exist, and no witnesses or video evidence were produced to indicate a second person in the van.

Prosecutors said Osborne was radicalized over just a few weeks, in part through online far-right propaganda. Searches for prominent extreme-right figures — including English Defense League founder Tommy Robinson and Britain First leader Paul Golding — were found on his computer.

Osborne's partner, Sarah Andrews, told prosecutors he had become "brainwashed" and was a "ticking time bomb."

Prosecutors said they classified the crime as terrorism because Osborne acted to advance a political purpose.

A note found in the van and Osborne's comments to police mentioned a case in which a group of Muslim men were convicted of sexually exploiting women and girls in England, as well as the deadly Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks carried out by Islamic radicals just weeks earlier.

Commander Dean Haydon, a senior counterterrorism officer with London's Metropolitan Police, said the case showed how "individuals can become radicalized really, really quickly" online.

"To be honest, some individuals could look at material today and decide to go and do an attack later on this evening," Haydon said.

Although he denied the murder charges, Osborne did not hide his aim to kill.

Giving evidence, he said he drove to London hoping to attack a pro-Palestinian march where his intended victims would have included Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party.

When he could not reach the march because roads were closed, Osborne went looking for a mosque instead.

Sue Hemming, head of counterterrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said Osborne "planned and carried out this attack because of his hatred of Muslims."

"We have been clear throughout that this was a terrorist attack, and he must now face the consequences of his actions," Hemming said.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed the verdict but said "we cannot be complacent and regard this as a one-off terrorist incident." He said Islamophobia was "not only prevalent in far-right circles, but also made acceptable in our mainstream."

Most of the arrests and attacks classified as terrorism in Britain in recent years have been motivated by Islamic extremism, but police say there is a growing threat from the far right. In 2016 Labour lawmaker Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by an attacker with extreme right-wing views.

Cox's widower Brendan Cox called for action to curb right-wing radicalization.

"When islamists commit acts of terror we rightly hunt down the hate preachers who inspired them," he tweeted. "We should do the same for the far right."

Judge Bobbie Cheema-Grubb said she would sentence Osborne on Friday.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, AP World News
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