Guilty plea to racist hate on Scotsman site

By Stephanie Brickman, November 11, 2010

A man has appeared for sentencing at Edinburgh's Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to posting antisemitic comments on the website of the Scotsman newspaper.

Mohammed Sandia, 45, who lives in Wembley, north west London, and draws incapacity benefit, posted comments referring to Jews as a "genetically mutated inbred tribe. Jews are not fit to breathe our air and should be attacked wherever we see them."

Sheriff Gordon Liddell said: "You clearly have hate in your heart and I pity you for that. I'm concerned to protect the public from your activities - and a fine is out of the question given what you have done."

Sheriff Liddell announced that he would not immediately impose a custodial sentence because Mr Sandia would be released halfway through and he would consider that too light a punishment. He also acknowledged the possibility of Mr Sandia being regarded as a martyr in some circles.

However, due to the damning nature of Mr Sandia's community service report in which he was described as showing no remorse, community service was out of the question.

You clearly have hate in your heart and I pity you

Sheriff Gordon Liddell

Sheriff Liddell opted to defer sentence for 12 months, dependent on good behaviour, in the hope that a better community service report would give him the option of imposing a community service order. In Scots law this means that Mr Sandia will reappear in court in a year's time, or sooner if he commits another offence.

Mr Sandia and his solicitor James Arrol declined to comment, but in court Mr Arrol said Mr Sandia had no previous convictions and was of good character.

Leah Granat, public affairs officer of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, which alerted the authorities to Mr Sandia's original comments, said: "We welcome the Sheriff's unequivocal condemnation of Sandia's comments and his recognition of the need to protect the public from his activities. We commend the clear message that this sends, that the law will not tolerate the abuse of freedom of speech to spread hatred, and the determination of the police and Crown Office to pursue this case to its conclusion.

"We trust that this groundbreaking prosecution helps prevent newspaper websites from being used for the promotion of racism and incitement in the future."

Morag McLaughlin, the Procurator Fiscal for Lothian and Borders, said: "Prejudice and hatred which finds expression in criminal behaviour has no place in Scotland. As prosecutors we take a tough stance on hate crime because we see the corrosive effect it has on communities.

"We have met representatives of the Jewish community and look forward to ongoing dialogue with them, to ensure that prosecution policy is informed by an understanding of the challenges they face and the impact of hate crime."

Last updated: 3:21pm, November 11 2010