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Woman facing sentence over 'Muslim gas chamber' posts

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 15/07/2016

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan
Dr Raied Al-Wazzan

A woman who posted a series of menacing messages on a loyalist Facebook page, including a comment suggesting that all Muslims should be sent to gas chambers, will be sentenced for her crimes next month.

Anne Bothwell appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday to contest a total of seven charges against her, six of which the 53-year-old was convicted of. The seventh was dismissed.

The defendant, from Ashmore Street in west Belfast, posted a series of comments on the Protestant Coalition's Facebook page concerning Muslims and Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, a senior figure in Northern Ireland's Muslim community.

Giving evidence during the hearing, Dr Al-Wazzan said the content of some of the messages caused him to fear for his life and for his family's safety.

Bothwell denied her posts were harmful and said she wrote them in jest. The defendant told the court: "I have Muslim friends, but I also have experience of Muslim people living in England, and they don't have the same sort of humour we do."

She also claimed that as Dr Al-Wazzan was the person who complained to police about a sermon given by Pastor James McConnell - which resulted in the preacher being taken to court - she made the comments because she was "upset" at what had happened to the pastor.

The charges arose from messages Bothwell posted on the Facebook page between January 14 and 16 earlier this year.

Dr Al-Wazzan, who has lived in Northern Ireland for 26 years, said he became aware that a picture of him had been posted on the group's Facebook page and that he was "curious to see the comments underneath".

He said that after reading a number of "unpleasant" messages, he decided to report the issue to the police.

Dr Al-Wazzan said that despite not knowing Anne Bothwell, there were several comments from her that suggested he should be shot, and that Muslims should be sent to the gas chamber. She also referred to him as Wizzy-Wazzy, accused him of practising witchcraft, and said Muslim woman "should be burnt at the stake".

When another poster asked what could be done about Dr Al-Wazzan, Bothwell replied: "Where are the guns? That would end the problem."

District Judge Ken Nixon convicted Bothwell of six charges related to a menacing message, and dismissed the charge linked to causing gross offence.

Mr Nixon listed the case for sentencing on August 11.

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