A vandal who launched a religiously-aggravated wrecking spree on five mosques – smashing windows and doors after arming himself with a sledgehammer – has been jailed for three years and nine months.
Arman Rezazadeh, a Muslim of Iranian descent, sparked a major hate crime inquiry supported by anti-terror police on March 21 by causing at least £11,500 worth of damage to mosques in the north Birmingham area.
The 34-year-old was jailed at the city’s crown court on Thursday after Judge Michael Chambers QC said the offences had prompted “horror and terror”, and had offended against Birmingham’s history of religious tolerance.
Rezazadeh, who has a history of mental health problems linked to use of cannabis, handed himself in at West Midlands Police headquarters a day after the attacks.
Prosecutor Tom Walkling said Rezazadeh, who had been drinking alcohol to celebrate the Iranian new year on the eve of the attacks, struck at five places of worship, initially using a sledgehammer and then a golf club.
Mr Walkling told the court the offences happened between 1.25am and 3.12am, adding: “For reasons that are obvious, the Muslim community in Birmingham and across the country was put in considerable fear.”
After Rezazadeh had handed himself in and confessed to being behind the attacks, it became clear that he had serious mental health issues and he was not arrested, instead being committed to the care of a hospital.
While at the hospital, Rezazadeh denied being responsible for the damage, despite CCTV, DNA and mobile phone cell-site evidence linking him to the offences.
It also emerged in court that he had told an interviewer while being treated as an in-patient in April that he thought there may be a religious significance to the number of windows that had been broken.
As well as denying that the man caught on CCTV looked like him, Rezazadeh said he had only confessed to get an opportunity to “expose” false religious teachings.
Passing sentence, Judge Chambers told Rezazadeh: “Birmingham has a long history of religious toleration and harmony, not only between the faiths but within the faiths as well.
“You quite deliberately and seriously offended against that.”
The judge, who said the defendant’s mental health problems were self-induced by cannabis use, added: “You were motivated by your religious hatred, you being of the Shia faith and the mosques being Sunni Muslim mosques.
“The harm in this case has been extremely substantial – the impact on the local and wider Muslim community has been huge.
“Clearly this offending was planned and premeditated. You selected your targets, you went out in dark, disguised clothing, and you went armed with a sledgehammer and another weapon.
“This is on any view a religious hate crime. It’s not suggested otherwise, nor could it realistically be so.”
Victim impact statements were read to the court before sentence was passed, in which mosque officials said security had been since been stepped up.
Javid Iqbal, of Witton Islamic Centre, stated: “This incident has affected myself and the congregation.
“When I think back to what has happened and see the events on CCTV, it does make me more concerned that had someone been there, they would have been confronted by someone wielding a sledgehammer. Someone could have been seriously hurt.”
Rezazadeh, of Greenhill Road, Handsworth, pleaded guilty last month to five counts of religiously aggravated criminal damage.