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A racist firebombed an Asian-owned takeaway shop in Rosyth and then bragged about it online.

Charles Johnston wore a mask and waved a machete as he ranted online about Muslims a fortnight later and claimed he had burned down a kebab shop.

However, his identity was revealed after he blurted out his home address.

Johnston was also wearing the same hoodie as when he tried to torch the takeaway in Rosyth, an incident captured on CCTV.

He believed money being taken for kebabs was going towards terrorism.

Johnston, 20, of Tovey Road, Rosyth, admitted the offences in March but evaded justice until his arrest in October and has now finally been sentenced at Dunfermline Sheriff Court. He was jailed for four years.

Depute fiscal Alex Kirk previously told the court Johnston had gone on his bike to the takeaway after midnight, when it was closed and shuttered.

He was carrying a bottle full of petrol and had just bought a lighter from a local garage.

He said the CCTV showed him set fire to the bottle and throw it at the takeaway, filming his actions on his mobile phone.

He said: “The accused is observed holding out his mobile phone as though recording this. He then runs away, retrieving his bike and cycling away.”

Around a fortnight later, Johnston was bragging on the internet.

He said he set the kebab shop on fire and spat on a mosque.

He ranted: “I’m gonna take ISIS in my stride. I set a kebab shop on fire because halal food contributes a 2% tax. Every kebab bought contributes to terrorist organisations.”

Defence solicitor Elaine Buist said in March: “He says he doesn’t have anything against individual Muslims.”

Sheriff Charles MacNair responded: “That is what is said by just about every racist. He clearly is a racist.”

However, when he was brought back to court for sentencing, Ms Buist said, “He now admits that at the time he was holding extreme views.”

Johnston admitted that on May 18 last year at Shalimar Kebab, Queensferry Road, he wilfully set fire to the premises by setting light to a bottle containing petrol and throwing it at the premises.

The fire took effect, damaging the shutters, and the offence was aggravated by religious prejudice.

He also admitted that on June 2 last year, at his home, he uploaded a live video to an online broadcasting service, Periscope, in which he repeatedly uttered racist, offensive and abusive remarks, all whilst holding a machete with his face masked.

He further admitted that on the same day, at Sherbrooke Road, he was in possession of a lock-knife.

The Courier

A far-right extremist who was engulfed in a ball of flames when he set fire to an historic synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.

Hospital X-Ray technician and self-styled folk singer Tristan Morgan, 52, was spotted walking away carrying a petrol can and laughing as smoke spewed from the 18th Century synagogue in Exeter on July 21 last year.

Afterwards, CCTV was recovered showing Morgan being burned as he set light to the synagogue through a smashed window.

The defendant, from Exeter in Devon, admitted arson with intent to endanger life, encouraging terrorism by publishing a song entitled “White Man” to live-streaming website Soundcloud, and having a copy of the White Resistance Manual.

The court heard he was psychotic at the time of the arson attack but had no previous history of violence.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC handed Morgan a hospital order without limit of time, saying most people would feel “anger and revulsion” for what he did.

Tristan Morgan, 52, was engulfed in a ball of flames when he set fire to an historic synagogue. Credit: PA/Devon and Cornwall Police

Outlining the facts, prosecutor Alistair Richardson said Morgan has “deep-rooted anti-Semitic belief, embodied in a desire to do harm to the Jewish community and an obsession with abhorrent anti-Semitic material”.

Morgan made songs “exhorting others to violence” against the Jewish community and had an array of material which “revelled in the degenerate views of Nazi Germany and white supremacists”, Mr Richardson said.

On the evening of Saturday July 21 last year, he tried to burn down the synagogue “with no thought for any lives he might put at risk”, he said.

Mr Richardson told how Zoe Baker and her partner Samual O’Brien were walking through Exeter City Centre when they heard a “loud bang” and saw an “orange glow and smoke” coming from the grade two listed building.

Concerned that someone might be hurt, they stopped and Ms Baker saw the defendant walking from away carrying a green petrol can.

Mr Richardson said: “He appeared to be laughing, while trying to flatten his hair which she described as looking like it had been ‘whooshed up’.

Morgan appeared “cocky” as he drove off in a Mercedes Vito van, according to the eyewitness account.

Mr O’Brien and an employee of a nearby Mecca bingo tackled the blaze with fire extinguishers before the fire brigade arrived.

Firefighters found a “severe” fire in a room containing a gas boiler, which could have exploded.

Morgan’s van was identified on CCTV as well as footage of the defendant using a small axe to break a window of the synagogue.

The court was shown video of Morgan pouring liquid from his green petrol can through the window before he is engulfed in a ball of flames.

Police arrested him at his home in Alexander Terrace in Exeter.

As he opened the door to officers, the defendant, who smelt of petrol and burning, exclaimed: “That didn’t take long”.

He had burns to his hands, forehead and hair, the court heard.

In his pockets, he was carrying two lock knives and two lighters.

As he was put in a police van, Morgan said: “Please tell me that synagogue is burning to the ground, if not, it’s poor preparation.”

Later, as his burns were being treated in hospital, he told staff “it was like a bomb going off”.

The attack on the synagogue was described as “devastating” for the whole Jewish community.

The court heard the attack coincided with a Jewish feast day commemorating disasters, including the Holocaust.

The Exeter Synagogue, built in 1763, is the third oldest in Britain and remains a focal point for the Jewish community in the South West.

It underwent reconstruction in the 1990s and a £100,000 restoration project was completed in 2013.

The cost of repairing the fire damage was said to total more than £23,000.

The court heard how Morgan performed his song “White Man” under the alias of Arland Bran.

His song calling for “White Man” to “kill your enemy” was played 53 times, “liked” twice and shared once.

ITV News

Hearing at the Old Bailey reveals how Tristan Morgan, 52, broke into the rear of the 18th century shul by smashing a window and poured accelerant in

A homeless white nationalist in Devon has admitted setting fire to an historic Exeter synagogue in an arson attack in July last year.

At a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, Judge Anthony Leonard QC was told that prosecutors have accepted 52-year old Tristan Morgan’s guilty pleas to a series of charges, as he lifted reporting restrictions.

Morgan, of no fixed abode, admitted arson, encouraging terrorism by publishing a song called ‘White Man’ to a live-streaming website, and collecting information for terrorist purposes in relation to a book called ‘White Resistance Manual.’ He will be sentenced on 1 July.

He was arrested after breaking a window at the rear of the 18th century building – Britain’s third oldest synagogue – before pouring fuel inside and using a match to ignite it. He admitted to recklessly endangering life.

The Community Security Trust (CST) said it had worked closely with Exeter Synagogue and with Devon & Cornwall Police since it happened.

In a statement, the CST said it had been “an appalling attack by somebody who had engaged with far right extremism” which made it “a very disturbing incident”.

It added: “The damage to the synagogue would have been much worse had it not been for the quick thinking and actions of local residents, and we are grateful to the wider community for the support they offered to Exeter Synagogue in the days following this attack.”

Speaking to Jewish News, Brian Nathan, the security officer at the shul, said: “We had a phenomenal and heart-warming response from the Exeter authorities – civil, police, fire. From what could have been a disaster, a lot of good came out.”

The building was saved because two passing bingo workers noticed the flames and put the fire out using nearby fire extinguishers before alerting authorities. They both received awards for their heroism and quick thinking, and were invited to the synagogue’s reopening.

Speaking last year, Superintendent Matthew Lawler said there had been a “really good, positive response from both the public and faith groups in Exeter in support of the Jewish community”.

Jewish News

A man with “issues” with God and religion who started fires at two places of worship in Edinburgh within minutes of each other has been jailed for four years.

Paul Johnson, 49, told police after he was arrested for the fires at a Methodist church and a Sikh temple that he had wanted to watch them burn down.

Johnson claimed that he was wanting to make “a political statement” but would not elaborate on the details.

Advocate depute Alan Cameron said: “When asked whether this was religiously motivated he stated that he has no issue with any particular religion but his issues are with religion and God in general.”

On Thursday, Johnson – who pleaded guilty to two charges last month, was sent to prison.

Passing sentence, Lord Boyd told Johnson that he had no other option but to impose a custodial term on him..

He added: “Your actions put people at risk. They were reckless and wicked. I take into account that your actions were motivated by a grudge against religion and religious authority and not against one particular religion.

“Indeed, I take into account that you appeared not to know what denominations you targeted.”

Johnson admitted two charges of wilful fire raising aggravated by religious prejudice when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh last month.

He pled guilty to setting fire to the doors of the Leith Methodist Church at Junction Place on August 28 this year by pouring petrol over them and applying a naked flame resulting in charring and burn marks.

He also admitted on the same day setting for to the doors of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple at Sheriff Brae, in Leith, by gathering combustible material, placing it against the doors, pouring petrol on it and applying a flame with the result that the doors caught fire and smoke penetrated the building endangering the life of inhabitants.

The court heard that the temple priest Harbhajan Singh earlier secured the doors of the premises and went to family quarters at the rear of the building where he stayed with his wife and child.

Before 5 am Michal Kazimierczak walked to the temple with the intention of praying at the entrance prior to going to work and tried to clear what appeared to be litter from the a gap at the bottom of the doors only to discover it was alight and had taken hold.

He ran to the side of the building and alerted the sleeping priest and both men then tried to put out the fire using a bucket of water.

The fire brigade was alerted and 11 firefighters were deployed to bring the blaze under control. Significant burning and charring was seen on the doors and smoke had engulfed the building.

A caretaker at the Methodist church arrived at his work and smelled petrol and burning and saw scorch marks at the gate and steps at the front door. After media reports of the fire at the Sikh temple he contacted police.

Unemployed Johnson was caught on security cameras buying a jerry can and petrol at a BP service station in Ferry Road before midnight on August 27.

He was also seen on footage approaching the front door of the church shortly after midnight and a flash of light was captured.

Johnson was also seen on CCTV approaching the temple with the jerry can and lighting paper and throwing it towards the door. He repeatedly returned to light more paper and a burst of flame was later seen before he fled.

Johnson, who was evicted from his accommodation in the city’s Duddingston Crescent the day before the fire attacks, was found with three cigarette lighters when he was arrested on August 30.

He admitted starting the fires to police. Mr Cameron said: “He further stated that around midnight he walked to the Methodist church in Leith and poured fuel on the doors before using a lighter to set fire to pieces of paper which he threw on the fuel.”

“He stated that a small fire started but quickly went out. He stayed in the immediate area for some time but no emergency services attended,” said the prosecutor.

“He further stated that he then walked around Leith for around 40 minutes and on seeing the Sikh temple set fire to the doors using the same method as before,” he told the court.

Mr Cameron said “The accused stated that his intention in buying the petrol was to start the fire at the Methodist church and that the fire-raising at the Sikh temple was not planned and was only carried out when he came across the building.”

The prosecutor said Johnson was asked what his intention was in starting the fires and said “he wanted to watch them burn down”.

Defence counsel David Nicolson said Johnson was seen by a psychiatrist who confirmed that he was fit to plead.

On Thursday, Mr Nicolson told Lord Boyd that his client hadn’t co-operated with a specialist social worker who had been appointed to write a report into his background.

He added: “I am limited by what I can say. It is very limited. The primary form of mitigation which I can advance is that he tendered a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity. I would ask you to take that into account.”

Speaking following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Grant Johnston from Gayfield CID said: “Paul Johnson showed absolutely no concern for the safety or wellbeing of those in or around either place of worship when he started these fires.

“As a result of a swift police investigation, Johnson was quickly traced and arrested in connection with the fire and has now been given a custodial sentence.

“We treat all hate crime incidents with the utmost seriousness and whenever such offences occur, we will conduct a thorough inquiry to bring those responsible to justice.”

Lord Boyd said that if Johnson hadn’t pleaded guilty, he would have received a six year sentence.

The Scotsman

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

A man who has “issues” with religion has admitted setting fire to the doors of a Sikh temple and a church.

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Edinburgh’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and Leith Methodist Church this summer because he wanted to make a “political statement”.

He told police he wanted to watch the premises burn down and hoped to be arrested.

Johnson, 49, admitted two charges of willful fireraising, aggravated by religious prejudice, on August 28 when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday. He will be sentenced next month.

The court heard the attack on the Sikh temple , to the danger of life of a family inside, was unplanned and was only carried out when unemployed Johnson came across the building.

It also heard how, on the evening of August 27, Johnson bought a container and, later, fuel worth £3.51 from a local petrol station.

Shortly before 5am on August 28, a man heading to the temple to pray spotted that fire had taken hold on one side of one of the doors and immediately raised the alarm with a man sleeping inside in the family quarters.

The fire service was then alerted and used two engines, two high reach vehicles and 11 firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

Around a couple of hours later, the caretaker at Leith Methodist Church noticed a smell of petrol and burning and cleaned up the area around the front door after realising there was no fire damage of note.

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

He later contact police after hearing about the incident at the temple.

CCTV footage from the area around the church between 12.03am and 12.13am showed Johnson approaching the church door, with a flash of light then visible.

Footage from the temple from 12.38am to 1.07am revealed him then approaching the door with a jerry can and lighting a piece of paper.

He returned on two further occasions during that time to light more paper and throw it towards the door before running away.

Police arrested Johnson after spotting him in Leith in the early hours of August 30.

Asked about his involvement in the two fires, he immediately told officers: “I did it.”

Advocate depute Alan Cameron told the court: “He stated that around midnight he walked to the Methodist Church in Leith and poured fuel on the doors before using a lighter to set fire to pieces of paper which he threw on the fuel.

“He stated that a small fire started but quickly went out. He stayed in the immediate area for some time but no emergency services attended.”

Johnson then walked around Leith and, on seeing the Sikh temple, set fire to its front doors using the same method.

Mr Cameron continued: “He stated that a small fire caught and he stayed in the locus as he wanted to be arrested by the police, however no emergency services attended.

“The accused stated that his intention in buying the petrol was to start the fire at the Methodist church and that the fire-raising at the Sikh temple was not planned and was only carried out when he came across the building.

“The accused was asked as to his motivation for the fires and stated that he was looking to make a political statement, but would not provide further details.

“When asked whether this was religiously motivated he stated that he has no issue with any particular religion but his issues are with religion and God in general.

“The accused was asked what his intention was by setting fire to the building and he stated that he wanted to watch them burn down.”

Johnson, listed as a prisoner in Edinburgh, has a previous conviction for culpable and reckless conduct, which earned him a four-month jail sentence in 2017.

Judge Lord Boyd deferred sentencing in the case until November 15.

Daily Record

A FAR-right supporter who set fire to Newport’s Masonic Lodge and Bassaleg secondary school, and daubed swastikas and racist slogans on buildings across the city, has been jailed for a total of six years.

Austin Ross, 23, carried out the two arson attacks and his spree of hate-fuelled criminal damage during May this year.

The Riverfront Theatre, Maindee primary school, Gwent Probation Service’s Lower Dock Street offices, and the Bethel Community Church were among his other targets.

Ross, of Romney Close, St Julians, Newport, carried out the attacks, said Judge Jeremy Jenkins, “out of sheer hatred and malice”, based on a “perverted view of race and religion”.

Ross pleaded guilty last month to 15 charges, including two of arson.

He began by sticking a racially offensive poster,, and spray painting a swastika, on a window at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport, between May 2 and May 5.

The poster, along with several others Ross subsequently stuck to buildings in Newport, referenced the neo-Nazi System Resistance Network (SRN).

On May 4, the Bethel Community Church was targeted with posters and swastikas, as was Maindee primary school, where parents removed posters and handed them in to the school.

The school was targeted again on May 8 and May 25, but Ross had in the interim stuck posters and daubed swastikas on a wall at the Newport Centre.

Between May 25-30 he targeted the Gwent Probation Service building on Lower Dock Street with a spray painted far right message.

And on May 28, racist graffiti and a swastika were daubed on a wall at the University of South Wales campus on Usk Way.

Ross’ criminal activities then took an even more sinister turn.

On the night of May 28 he posted a flammable liquid through the letterbox at the Masonic Lodge in Lower Dock Street and set fire to it – an act caught on CCTV – causing £38,000 of damage.

And on the same night he caused around £20,000 of damage to a classroom at Bassaleg School after setting fire to a window blind.

Both buildings were also daubed with racist graffiti.

Police issued CCTV images of a man clad in black clothing, to try to track down the perpetrator.

Acting on a tip-off, they arrested Ross at an address in Grosvenor Road, Bassaleg, on June 5.

The Bassaleg and the Romney Close addresses were searched, and items found included cardboard swastika stencils and neo-Nazi posters.

Defence counsel Harry Baker said several references submitted on behalf of Ross showed “a different side” to him.

But sentencing him, Judge Jenkins was scathing of Ross’ crimes.

“You daubed swastikas and other highly offensive literature on schools, a church, a theatre, a footbridge and other buildings,” he said.

“You deliberately set fire to the Masonic Lodge and Bassaleg secondary school.

“Your actions were not born of some mental disorder, but out of hatred and malice based upon your perverted view of race and religion, and others dissimilar to yourself.

“That, in a civilised society is as abhorrent as it is impossible to comprehend.”

Ross was sentenced to three years in prison on each arson charge, to run consecutively.

He was also sentenced to six months on each of 13 charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. These will run concurrently to the arson sentences.

Speaking after the senetencing hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Wilkie, of Gwent Police, said: “The offences committed by Ross in Newport in May of this year were very serious, and understandably resulted in concern and distress throughout our community.

“There is no place for hate crime in Gwent, and we will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to this type of offending.

“We are committed to ensuring our neighbourhoods are welcoming and safe places for everyone, and any crime motivated by racial, sexual, or any other prejudice, will be investigated thoroughly and any offender dealt with robustly.

“We would encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed an incident or crime that they perceive to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, to report to us directly on 101 or 999, online at http://www.report-it.org or through Victim Support on 0300 30 31 982.”

Cerys Beresford-Evans of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Ross spread his racist messages around Newport by causing damage and destruction to buildings.

“Hate crime has no place in a civilised society and has a devastating impact on not only individuals, but on communities.

“The CPS will continue to work with our partners in the criminal justice system to address all forms of hate crime.”

South Wales Argus

Members of a South Texas mosque that was set ablaze last year went up to shake hands and hug prosecutors in a federal courtroom Monday.

Just moments before,12 jurors had announced they’d found the man accused of setting the fire guilty.

“Yes,” each said when asked one by one if that was their true verdict.

The trial of Marq Vincent Perez, who was indicted last year of a hate crime related to the Jan. 28, 2017 fire at the Victoria Islamic Center, began last week at the federal courthouse.

It took the jury about three hours of deliberations before finding him guilty of three felony counts including damage to a religious property, use of fire to commit a federal felony and possession of a destructive device related to an earlier incident.

 Construction on the new mosque is about 80-85 percent complete. Eleanor Dearman/Caller-Times


Construction on the new mosque is about 80-85 percent complete.
Eleanor Dearman/Caller-Times

“No group anywhere in the United States of America should be subjected to such hate crimes,” said Omar Rachid, who handles community and public relations for the mosque.

“I think what the jury has done today, this afternoon, is send a message loud and clear that such behavior and such crimes will not be tolerated,” he continued.

U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey will decide Perez’s sentence at an Oct. 2 hearing. The date could coincide with the opening of the newly built mosque.

“God works in mysterious ways, and maybe one of those ways he has in store for us is that the sentencing could very well take place at about the time we take possession of our new mosque,” Rachid said.

Perez, wearing a grey shirt and dark rimmed glasses, sat beside his attorney Mark Di Carlo Monday as federal prosecutors presented their closing arguments to a jury. His trial was expected to last around two weeks, but the presentation of evidence concluded Friday.

A video clip of the burning mosque played on a large screen in the courtroom as prosecutor Saeed Ahmed Mody began presenting his case.

“His intention was for damage and destruction, and that’s exactly what he did,” Mody said.

 Marq Vincent Perez, 26, is escorted from the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building after a pretrial hearing. Perez, of Victoria, is accused of intentionally setting a fire that destroyed a mosque at the Islamic Center of Victoria in January 2017. Contributed// Qiling Wang, Victoria Advocate


Marq Vincent Perez, 26, is escorted from the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building after a pretrial hearing. Perez, of Victoria, is accused of intentionally setting a fire that destroyed a mosque at the Islamic Center of Victoria in January 2017.
Contributed// Qiling Wang, Victoria Advocate

He argued it was Perez’s goal to “terrorize” the Muslim community. He described the Victoria Islamic Center as a place where the community would gather for joyous occasions — weddings and weekly potlucks — as well as sad occasions.

On the trial’s first day, the jury heard from a federal prosecutor who painted Perez as having an “absolute hatred” of Muslims. Sharad Sushil Khandelwal, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Perez became involved with a militia group on Facebook and began forming what he called “rogue units.”

On Jan. 15 Perez went on a “training mission” to throw an “improvised bomb” into a car, he said. After burglarizing the mosque with a juvenile identified as K.R. on Jan. 22, the two returned on Jan. 28 but this time, Perez set the mosque on fire, Khandelwal argued last week.

 Authorities have determined arson is responsible for the fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center mosque on Jan. 28, 2017. Contributed photo/ATF


Authorities have determined arson is responsible for the fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center mosque on Jan. 28, 2017.
Contributed photo/ATF

But during his closing arguments, Di Carlo maintained his client’s innocence. He told jurors that the juveline’s testimony is hearsay and promoted the idea that he was not a credible witness.

He also categorized the Jan. 15 incident as separate from the Jan. 28 burglary and fire. Khandelwal said due to their belief the June 15 incident was done as a “training mission,” the two crimes were connected. He also said Perez’s DNA was found on the “improvised bomb.”

The jury was shown Facebook messages that prosecutors say show Perez’s hate of Muslims.

“He can’t keep his mouth shut and he can’t keep his fingers off the laptop either,” Khandelwal said.

The jury also listened to testimony that showed Perez’s phone contained photos of the burning mosque and that items that were stolen from the mosque were found at Perez’s residence, according to prosecutors.

Di Carlo said the government “cherry picked and oh so carefully presented” their evidence against Perez.

“We only have what the government allowed us to see,” Di Carlo said.

He also suggested that Perez was “profiled” because he’s conservative, had a brief stint in the military and was allegedly a part of the militia group.

Di Carlo flipped through a copy of the Quran that had been admitted into evidence.

“And do not cover the truth with falsehood,” he read, asking the jury to find Perez not guilty.

He told reporters after the trial’s conclusion that the entirety of Perez’s social media postings and interview with investigators weren’t allowed to be entered into evidence at trial and that “only things that were adverse to his interests came in.”

Di Carlo said he was surprised by the jury’s decision.

“As is stated throughout the trial, we do not believe that the fact that the defendant disliked Muslims is proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Di Carlo said. “Again, as stated during the trial, there was issues regarding his concern about Middle-Eastern people, about terrorists, about illegal immigrants and the mention of religion was very, very minimal.”

“I hope that point was made to the jurors,” he continued. “Perhaps it wasn’t made well enough.”

Di Carlo said Perez took the verdict “very somberly.”

U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick lauded the conviction as a commitment to protect religious liberty.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the religious liberty of all people and their ability to practice their faith without being the target of this kind of dangerous activity.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said the department ” is committed to holding hate crimes perpetrators accountable under the law.”

“All people are entitled to live free from violence and fear, regardless of their religion or place of worship,” Gore said. “Perez’s actions were criminal, unlawful and dangerous.”

Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the hate crime count and up to 10 years for possessing an unregistered destructive device, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. For use of a fire to commit a felony, the penalty is consecutive and he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Each count carries a possible $250,000 fine.

And as Perez awaits a decision on how long he’ll be behind bars, members of the mosque are looking forward to opening the doors of their new mosque.

Construction is about 80-85 percent done. They are hoping to have it opened in September or early October, Rachid said.

One of the Victoria Islamic Center board members said despite the fire, they want the mosque to be a place that his open to the community.

“The last thing we want to do is for evil to win by making us … be separated from our community,” Abe Ajrami said.

He extended thoughts and prayers to Perez, adding that maybe Perez can use his time in jail to learn about Islam. He also extended prayers to Perez’s family.

“There is no hard feeling here, and I can tell you in the name of the Muslim community, Mr. and Mrs. Perez are invited to the open house.”

At the end of the day, what’s more important than the verdict is how the community came together following the fire, Ajrami said.

“That’s what gives me hope,” he said. “Whether Mr. Perez is out or in, that’s one person comparing to thousands in Victoria who made a clear statement that they are against the burning of any place of worship.”

Caller Times