LONDON - Five men are on trial in Britain for allegedly distributing leaflets calling for gay people to be killed, charged under a new law that makes such actions a hate crime.
The men allegedly gave out flyers titled "The Death Penalty" that showed a mannequin hanging from a noose and said gay people would be punished by being sent to hell, according to the BBC. Two other leaflets titled "Turn or Burn" and "God Abhors You" were used to publicize a protest against a gay pride march in the central English city of Derby in 2010. One of them had an illustration of a lake of fire and claimed that homosexuality was the basis of all problems.
The investigation turned up a fourth pamphlet that compared homosexuality to pedophilia. It was not distributed.
The Crown Prosecution Service said Wednesday this was the first prosecution for stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, under the law that took effect in March 2010. It has long been illegal to incite hatred over disability, race or religion. The maximum penalty for the crime is seven years in jail.
Prosecutors said Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hussain, 45, Umar Javed, 38, Razwan Javed, 27, and Kabir Ahmed, 28, handed out leaflets near a mosque in Derby and also stuffed them into mailboxes. Though Ali had asked police for permission to stage a counter-protest before one of the gay pride events, he was not given permission because he applied too close to the date and was cautioned about the wording of signs and placards, the BBC reported. He faces four charges, while Hussain and Umar Javed face two each. Razwan Javed and Ahmed face one charge apiece.
According to the BBC, the men said the pamphlets were distributed to "raise awareness" not incite hate.
Prosecutor Bobbie Cheema called the leaflets "frightening and nasty."
"These five defendants were part of a small group of men who distributed horrible, threatening literature, with quotations from religious sources and with pictures on them, which were designed to stir up hatred and hostility against homosexual people," she said.