Pair jailed for mosque arson attack
An ex-soldier who set fire to a mosque has been jailed for 10 years.
Simon Beech, who served in the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, was convicted of arson alongside Garreth Foster by a jury at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.
Foster was also given a 10-year sentence.
The court heard that the pair set fire to the mosque, in Regent Road in the Hanley area of the city, in a revenge attack after Muslim extremists burned poppies on Armistice Day.
Both men had denied causing the blaze on December 3 last year but were convicted by a jury.
The panel had heard that before the fire Beech, of Hilton Road, Hartshill, had written on a Facebook page: "The time has come. They burn our poppies, we burn their place. Burn the lot of them out."
Prosecutor Paul Spratt told the court: "He found persons through Facebook who had like-minded views. One observation he plainly agreed with was 'Nuke All Mosques'."
Passing sentence, Judge Mark Eades said the arson had been "thought through to a considerable degree".
He said: "The whole scheme involved a degree of pre-planning and preparation. This was a profoundly disturbing case. A considerable amount of planning and forethought went into this arson."
The judge said he did not accept that the fire was lit to avenge Muslim extremists but rather was designed "to get at Muslims in general".