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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

Sean Gorman, 18, had pleaded guilty to racially aggravated stabbing of Syrian Shabaz Ali

A teenager has been sentenced to seven years and nine months in detention for the racially aggravated attempted murder of a Syrian refugee.

Sean Gorman, 18, previously pleaded guilty to attacking Shabaz Ali, 25, a refugee. He repeatedly stabbed Ali in the chest and stomach during an argument about noise levels in a privately owned homeless hostel in Edinburgh in May.

Passing sentence at the high court in Edinburgh, the judge, Lord Woolman, told Gorman the attack had caused his victim serious physical and psychological harm.

“He cannot work. He can only take short walks with the aid of a walking stick. He awaits further surgery.”

The incident took place at a ground-floor hostel used by Edinburgh council near the Tollcross area of the city. It is thought Ali intervened in a row involving his female cousin, who was also based at the hostel, and a group of people including Gorman, who was then 17.

Gorman also pleaded guilty to the racially aggravated alarm of a woman, thought to be Ali’s cousin. Ali’s father claimed he could hear his son’s attackers shout: “Why are you still here? Why are you not back in your own country?”

The family came from Kobanî in northern Syria, and had been living in Scotland for five years. At the time of the attack, Ali was working as a barber in the Portobello area of Edinburgh and staying in a hostel as he looked for a new home.

Campaigners with Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), a Glasgow-based charity that launched a fundraising campaign for the family, said at the time of the attack that it had heard numerous reports of refugee families in Midlothian near Edinburgh suffering racist abuse and stone-throwing incidents, as well as instances in other parts of Scotland.

Following the sentencing, DCI Paul Grainger of Police Scotland said: “Gorman used appalling racist language before perpetrating significant violence against the victim, who was left fighting for his life.

“I cannot condemn the circumstances of this case strongly enough. Edinburgh thrives on diversity and Gorman’s actions do not in any way reflect the values of our city.

“Significant support has been shown across the capital for the victim and his family, which is far more representative of the strength of inclusivity across our communities.”

Issuing a statement on behalf of Ali’s father, Sivan, the solicitor Aamer Anwar said: “Shabaz’s father welcomes the significant sentence imposed today by Lord Woolman and the message sent out to violent racists like Sean Gorman.”

Describing Shabaz as “a hardworking, peaceful young man who tried to rebuild his life after Syria”, the statement also repeated allegations that, days before the attack, the victim had told Edinburgh council that he felt unsafe in his temporary accommodation “but his pleas for help were ignored”. The council has insisted it takes the safety of hostel residents “very seriously”.

The Guardian

Peter Morgan had denied the charges

Peter Morgan had denied the charges

A man found in possession of explosive items and extreme right-wing paraphernalia at a flat in Edinburgh has been today (Thursday 16th August 2018) been jailed.

At Edinburgh High Court on Friday 13th July 2018, Peter Morgan was found guilty of two offences under the Terrorism Act 2000 and one offence under the Explosive Substances Act 1883.

Officers were conducting enquiries into the death of a teenage woman, who was found unconscious within a stairwell at a block of flats in Taylor Place in July 2017, when Morgan’s offences were discovered.

As part of officers’ enquiries into the full circumstances surrounding her death, entry was forced to the 35-year-old’s property.

During the search of the flat, officers became aware of extremist material and Police Scotland’s Organised Crime & Counter Terrorism Unit (OCCTU) were immediately called in to investigate, supported by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal.

A number of items, which could be used to construct an explosive device, were seized along with phones and computer equipment.

Following analysis of these, it was established that Morgan had been researching racist content and information on constructing explosives online.

Morgan was arrested and has been remanded in custody since this time. At Edinburgh High Court, he has now been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Detective Inspector Jackie Gilfillan from OCCTU said: “The sentence handed to Morgan reflects the serious nature of his crimes and the commitment of both Police Scotland and the Crown Office to removing extremist threats.

“While Morgan had not created any viable devices within his home, the intent to construct an object that could cause serious harm and fear within our communities was clear.

“The national Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) campaign recognises the important role the public have to play in preventing terrorism and, whenever such individuals come to our attention, a thorough investigation will be undertaken to bring them to justice.

“While on this occasion we were able to prevent any danger to the public, I’d encourage anyone with concerns about a person viewing extremist or terrorist material to report this to Police Scotland on 101 or to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.”

Police Scotland

Morgan was photographed at a white pride rally in Manchester in 2015

Morgan was photographed at a white pride rally in Manchester in 2015

A right-wing extremist caught with a bomb-making kit in his Edinburgh flat has been sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Explosive powder, fuses and a glass bottle studded with lead shot were found when police raided Peter Morgan’s home in Meadowbank last July.

During his trial a bomb disposal expert told the court the material could have been turned into an explosive device capable of causing horrific injuries.

A Nazi flag, far-right literature and terrorist training manuals were found.

Judge Lord Boyd told the 35-year-old the charges he had been convicted of threatened “the safety of the public, our values as a democracy and strike at the dignity and respect which all members of our community are entitled to expect whatever their race or religion”.

He will spend a further three years under supervision at the end of his 12-year sentence.

Lord Boyd told Morgan at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You have been convicted of two charges under the Terrorism Act and one charge under the Explosives Substances Act 1883.

“You assert your right to freedom of speech. However abhorrent some may find your views, you are entitled to hold them.

“What you are not entitled to do is to act on these views for the purpose of committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

“Of most concern is that you not only possessed the ingredients for the making of an improvised explosive device but you had begun to assemble it.”

The judge said it was clear the jury at Morgan’s earlier trial had rejected his claim during his evidence that he only planned to blow up a frozen turkey and film it for YouTube.

Lord Boyd pointed out that while Morgan had told a social worker who prepared a background report that he would never collect such material again, he did not disavow his political views.

Police also discovered that Morgan had downloaded an international application form to become “a loyal white knight of the Ku Klux Klan”.

He had amassed a collection of neo-Nazi, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic and racist material at his home.

Peter Morgan had denied the charges

Peter Morgan had denied the charges

Morgan’s trial heard that he was “quite proud” to be part of the Scottish Defence League and travelled with others from the far right group to attend a white pride rally in Manchester in 2015.

He was photographed at the march with his hood up carrying a Scottish saltire flag and holding a “white pride worldwide” poster.

Morgan had earlier denied committing offences under the Terrorism Act and Explosives Substances Act but was found guilty of three offences.

Between April 2012 and July last year at his flat in Taylor Place, in Edinburgh, he possessed items which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that it was for a purpose “connected with the commission, preparation of instigation of an act of terrorism”.

The court heard emergency services originally attended at the block of flats where he lived on 2 July 2017 after a young woman collapsed and was found to have no pulse.

A resident said that she previously saw the woman at Morgan’s flat and police decided to force entry because of concern for others.

No one was in the flat at the time but officers noted drugs paraphernalia such as needles and scales and the premises were secured. Morgan was later seen nearby.

A large quantity of commercial fireworks were found, some of which had been taken apart.

A dagger bearing the symbol of an eagle mounted on a swastika was recovered under a sofa in the living room.

Defence solicitor advocate Brian Gilfedder said Morgan had an “atrocious” upbringing, had spent time in care homes and foster placements and began abusing drugs at the age of 11.

He told the court: “He is not shy about the political and social views that he said he legitimately holds.”

Fuses were among the things found in Morgan's possessions

Fuses were among the things found in Morgan’s possessions

BBC News

Sean Gorman, 18, admitted stabbing Shabaz Ali, 25, who suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack after being subjected to racist abuse.

Shabaz Ali, pictured in hospital after the brutal knife attack (Image: PA/Daily Record)

Shabaz Ali, pictured in hospital after the brutal knife attack (Image: PA/Daily Record)

A teenager has admitted the racially-aggravated attempted murder of a Syrian refugee in Edinburgh .

Shabaz Ali was stabbed in an argument with Sean Gorman at a hostel in Upper Gilmore Place in the early hours of Thursday May 3.

Ali, 25, had fled to Scotland five years ago with his family and was working as a barber and staying in the hostel as he looked for a new home.

Police Scotland said Gorman, 18, had been visiting the hostel and that Ali called at his room due to loud noise.

Gorman made threats and racially abused the victim before stabbing him and leaving the property.

He was traced a short time later in Duff Street and arrested, with a lock knife recovered.

The 18-year-old pled guilty to racially-aggravated attempted murder as well as causing racially aggravated alarm to another woman within the hostel at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday, Police Scotland said.

The charity Positive Action in Housing have supported the Ali family and released pictures of Shabaz in critical care at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after the attack.

His father Sivan told the charity he could hear his sons’ attacker shout: “Why are you still here, why are you not back in your own country?”

Campaigners set up an online appeal for donations “to help Shahbaz recover and rebuild his life” with more than £12,000 raised.

Gorman will be sentenced in August.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Grainger said: “Gorman’s violence was extreme and left the victim with significant, life-threatening injuries. He showed utter disregard for the victim and another woman who was with him – made all the worse given the appalling racist language used.

“Whilst this attack happened within a private property, it gained a great deal of public and media interest and I’m pleased that Gorman has been brought to justice so quickly.

“Edinburgh is a vibrant place where people of different nationalities, faiths and backgrounds live together and the support shown by the local community for the victim and his family is far more indicative of the city’s inclusivity than this one isolated incident.

“We work closely with all the different groups and communities across Edinburgh and hate crime and violence of this nature are roundly condemned. I hope that today’s conviction helps the victim and his family to move past this terrible attack and I wish them well.”

Ali’s solicitor Aamer Anwar said a number of attacks on Syrian refugee communities are going unreported because people “are too frightened to complain”.

Anwar said: “The family are Syrian refugees from Kobane, Northern Syria, who fled death to live in Scotland five years ago.

“Shabaz lost nine members of his family after an attack on their city by Islamic State. This racist thug who plead guilty today had no regard for the life of Shabaz Ali, who had done nothing wrong, he was a hardworking and quiet young man trying to rebuild his life after Syria.

“Many refugee families today are suffering racist abuse in Scotland and it’s up to decent people to stand up for their rights and ensure that the culprits are dealt with and that the local authorities act sensitively to support and if necessary rehouse victims.

“What the authorities cannot do is hide and pretend this is not happening.

“Since the attack the family are deeply grateful to Positive Action in Housing for their tremendous advocacy and support, as well as their MP Joanna Cherry, the leader of the Council and the people of Edinburgh who also rallied to their support.”

Daily Record

Police searching Peter Morgan’s flat also found an IRA volunteers’ handbook on guerilla warfare, a Ku Klux Klan application form and an Al Qaeda terrorism manual.

Police searching Peter Morgan's Edinburgh flat found bomb-making equipment and far-right literature (Image: Police/Daily Record)

Police searching Peter Morgan’s Edinburgh flat found bomb-making equipment and far-right literature (Image: Police/Daily Record)

A right-wing extremist who was caught with a bomb making kit after emergency services rushed to his home answering a 999 call has been jailed.

Police called in to search 35-year-old Peter Morgan’s flat after a woman collapsed found a glass bottle studded with lead shot and nail gun rounds along with explosive powder, fuses, screws and steel tacks.

An Army bomb disposal expert told the High Court in Edinburgh that a “quite effective, viable” improvised explosive device (IED) could have been made from the items discovered.

Sergeant Liam Davies told prosecution lawyer Ashley Edwards QC: “I believe that this is a bomb in construction or waiting to be constructed.”

The experienced explosive ordnance disposal soldier said the complicated weapon could cause “horrific injury” with severe bleeding and potential death without prompt medical intervention.

He said the potential shrapnel glued to the exterior of the vinegar shaker was telling and if the screws and tacks were put in with an explosive mixture placed inside the bottle that would add to the fragmentation effect.

During the search of Morgan’s home in Taylor Place, Edinburgh, officers also found a Nazi swastika flag, far-right literature and a German World War II dagger.

Police also discovered he downloaded an international application form to become a “loyal white knight of the Klu Klux Klan.”

Morgan had also acquired copies of an Al Qaeda terrorism manual, an IRA volunteers’ handbook on guerilla warfare and works on turning guns into fully automatic weapons as well as guides on improvised explosives and interrogation techniques.

Jurors heard he was “quite proud” that he was part of the Scottish Defence League and travelled with others from the far right group to a white pride rally in Manchester in 2015.

 Peter Morgan, pictured at a white pride rally, had an Al Qaeda terrorism manual at his home (Image: Handout)

Peter Morgan, pictured at a white pride rally, had an Al Qaeda terrorism manual at his home (Image: Handout)

He was photographed attending the march with his hood up carrying a Scottish Saltire flag and holding a “white pride worldwide” poster.

The story emerged on Friday after Morgan, a prisoner of HMP Edinburgh, was convicted of charges under the Terrorism Act.

Jurors convicted Morgan of charges which stated he possessed items and collected information which give “rise to a reasonable suspicion” that he was planning “acts of terrorism.”

Morgan’s offending took place between April 2012 and July 2017.

Experts say a 'quite effective' bomb could have been made from the items at Peter Morgan's home

Experts say a ‘quite effective’ bomb could have been made from the items at Peter Morgan’s home

Judge Lord Boyd remanded Morgan – who has convictions dating back two decades – in custody in order for the court to obtain reports about his character.

He said: “I could sentence you today but I prefer to obtain a full report about your background. I will refrain from making comments about the offences to which you have been convicted of.

“In the meantime, you will be remanded in custody.”

Morgan spent the trial denying any wrongdoing.

During proceedings, the jury heard that police and ambulance personnel had originally attended at the block of flats where Taylor lived on July 2 last year because a woman had collapsed and was found to have no pulse.

A resident said she previously saw the woman at Morgan’s flat and police decided to force entry because of concerns for others and a sergeant kicked the door in.

Fireworks and other bomb making equipment was found at Peter Morgan's Edinburgh flat

Fireworks and other bomb making equipment was found at Peter Morgan’s Edinburgh flat

No one was found in the flat at the time but officers noticed drugs paraphernalia such as needles and scales and the premises were secured. Morgan was later seen nearby.

Search officers were dispatched to the property and right-wing flags, leaflets and stickers were found. PC Paul Nicholson, 46, said as they searched drawers, the vinegar bottle, which had lead shot and cartridges glued to its outside, was found.

A large quantity of commercial fireworks were discovered some of which had been taken apart. A dagger bearing the symbol of an eagle mounted on a swastika was found under a sofa in the living room.

DC Murray Cairns, 44, said a decision was taken to seize items found in the flat with the assistance of military ordnance personnel.

A selection of fuses that Peter Morgan could have used to create a bomb

A selection of fuses that Peter Morgan could have used to create a bomb

He said a military expert viewed the items found in the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers and added: “He agreed it was potential component parts of an improvised explosive device.”

Computers taken from Morgan’s flat were analysed and it was found he had a PDF of the Turner Diaries , a novel seen as the bible of the racist right in America.

He was also found to have sent a message saying: “I just hate the f*****g Muslims. Don’t want any more of those f*****s up here.”

Morgan also said Muslims ‘p****d’ him off regardless of them being White, Black or Asian.

A military expert confirmed the items in Peter Morgan's home could make a bomb

A military expert confirmed the items in Peter Morgan’s home could make a bomb

When Morgan, who was on a prescription for the heroin substitute Methodone, was arrested, he said: “How can they get away with charging me for fireworks you can buy out of shops.

“It’s not like a bomb has been made out of them. It’s not like they have injured people.”

However, jurors concluded that Morgan was planning terrorism attacks.

Morgan will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on August 16, 2018.

Daily Record

A right-wing extremist who was caught with a bomb-making kit during an unrelated call-out to the death of a teenage woman in Edinburgh has been found guilty of terrorism offences.

Peter Morgan’s flat was searched on 5 July 2017 after a woman collapsed.

Police found a glass bottle studded with lead shot and nail gun rounds along with explosive powder, fuses, screws and steel tacks.

Morgan will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on 16 August 2018.

An Army bomb disposal expert told the High Court in Edinburgh that a “quite effective, viable” improvised explosive device (IED) could have been made from the items discovered.

Sgt Liam Davies told prosecution lawyer Ashley Edwards: “I believe that this is a bomb in construction or waiting to be constructed.”

The experienced explosive ordnance disposal soldier said the complicated weapon could cause “horrific injury” with severe bleeding and potential death without prompt medical intervention.

He said the potential shrapnel glued to the exterior of the vinegar shaker was telling and if the screws and tacks were put in with an explosive mixture placed inside the bottle that would add to the fragmentation effect.

During the search of Morgan’s home in Taylor Place, Edinburgh, officers also found a Nazi swastika flag, far-right literature and a German World War Two dagger.

Police also discovered he downloaded an international application form to become a “loyal white knight of the Klu Klux Klan”.

Morgan had also acquired copies of an Al Qaeda terrorism manual, an IRA volunteers handbook on guerrilla warfare and works on turning guns into fully automatic weapons as well as guides on improvised explosives and interrogation techniques.

Jurors heard he was “quite proud” he was part of the Scottish Defence League and travelled with others from the far-right group to a white pride rally in Manchester in 2015.

Jurors convicted Morgan of charges which stated he possessed items and collected information which give “rise to a reasonable suspicion” that he was planning “acts of terrorism.”

Morgan’s offending took place between April 2012 and July 2017.

Judge Lord Boyd remanded Morgan, who has convictions dating back two decades, in custody in order for the court to obtain reports about Morgan’s character.

Morgan had denied the charges.

During proceedings, the jury heard that police and ambulance personnel had originally attended at the block of flats where Taylor lived on July 2 last year because a woman had collapsed and was found to have no pulse.

A resident said she had previously seen the woman at Morgan’s flat and police decided to force entry because of concerns for others and a sergeant kicked the door in.

The flat was found to be empty but officers noticed drugs paraphernalia such as needles and scales and the premises were secured. Morgan was later seen nearby.

Search officers were dispatched to the property and right wing flags, leaflets and stickers were found.

BBC News