Man convicted of murder in van attack near London mosque – World

A man who drove a van into a crowd of worshippers near a north London mosque after expressing far-right and anti-Muslim opinions was convicted Thursday of murder and attempted murder.

A jury at London’s Woolwich Crown Court deliberated for about an hour before finding 48-year-old Darren Osborne guilty in the June attack in the city’s Finsbury Park neighbourhood.

A 51-year-old man, Makram Ali, was killed and at least nine people were injured when a rented van plowed into worshippers gathering to break their fast during Ramadan in 2017.

Prosecutors said Osborne was motivated by a hatred of Muslims. He saw them as extremists or rapists in pedophile gangs. Osborne, of Cardiff, Wales, had pleaded not guilty.

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.

Britain Mosque Attack

Darren Osborne, 48, pictured following his arrest at the scene of the attack, was convicted Thursday of murder and attempted murder. (Metropolitan Police/Associated Press)

Osborne 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 was produced to indicate a second person in the van.

Prosecutors said Osborne was radicalized over a short period of time, in part through online far-right propaganda. Searches for two prominent extreme-right figures — English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and Britain First leader Paul Golding — were found on Osborne’s 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.

CCTV Finsbury Park London

A frame of video released by police shows what the police say is a van driven by Osborne moments before colliding with the group around Makram Ali. Osborne was found guilty of Ali’s murder. (Metropolitan Police)

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 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 said, he 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.

BRITAIN FINSBURY PARK TERROR ATTACK

People look over floral tributes close to the scene of the attack in London on June 20. (Andy Rain/EPA)

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.


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