Driver guilty over 'Jewel of Medina' bomb plot
The Associated Press
Published Friday, May 15, 2009 5:21PM EDT
LONDON - A taxi driver was found guilty Friday of plotting to firebomb the London home of the publisher of a novel about the child bride of the Prophet Muhammad.
Abbas Taj, 30, was convicted of conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life for waiting in a getaway car while two accomplices poured diesel through a mailbox of the home and office of Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja in September.
The men were spotted igniting the fuel with a disposable lighter, and police quickly smashed down the door and put the blaze out.
Taj, who claimed he had no clue of what the two men were up to, shook his head and said "no" as the verdict was read out. The two other men -- Ali Beheshti and Abrar Mirza -- had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life.
Gibson Square had been due to publish "Jewel of Medina," a novel written by U.S. author Sherry Jones which dealt with the story of Aisha, who, according to tradition, was nine when she became the wife of the Prophet Muhammad.
It had originally due to brought out by Random House, but the publisher pulled the plug on the novel in August after saying that "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."
The cancellation prompted criticism from author Salman Rushdie, whose "The Satanic Verses" led to a 1989 death decree which forced him into hiding for years.
The arson attack delayed the book's publication in Britain. Its current release date is unclear -- several calls to Gibson Square were not returned Friday.
Taj, Beheshti and Mirza are due to be sentenced in July.