Four men in Britain were sentenced to prison Tuesday for their role in a fiery protest against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Mizanur Rahman, 24, Umran Javed, 27, and Abdul Muhid 25, were convicted of incitement to murder and sentenced to six years each. During a February 2006 protest in front of the Danish Embassy in London, they had called for the deaths of those responsible for the publication of the cartoons, prosecutors said.
A fourth defendant, Abdul Saleem, 32, was sentenced to four years in prison for inciting racial hatred.
The defendants had previously argued that they were venting their rage at the cartoons, which they considered an assault on Islam, and did not intend to incite murder. But Judge Brian Barker called their actions "the complete opposite of peaceful protest."
"No one is entitled to propagate an ideology of destruction and death," Barker said. "However deep your belief, that is not an excuse for breaking the law of the land."
The four were among a crowd of 200-300 demonstrators who converged on the Danish Embassy following the publication of cartoons showing the prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban, clutching a dagger or berating a group of suicide bombers.
Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depiction of the prophet for fear it could lead to idolatry.
The cartoons triggered Muslim protests from Morocco to Indonesia and in some cases attacks on Danish embassies. Protesters were killed in Libya and Afghanistan.