UPDATES WITH STATEMENTS FROM VICTIM'S DAUGHTER AND THE JUDGE
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - The man convicted of murder and attempted murder in last year’s terror attack on Muslim worshippers in London was handed a life sentence on Friday of a minimum of 43 years behind bars.
Darren Osborne, 48, killed a Muslim worshipper, Makram Ali, and injured 11 others last June when he plowed a van into a group of people after they left Ramadan prayers at the Muslim Welfare Centre in Finsbury Park.
Prime Minister Theresa May had condemned the attack as “sickening” and “insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life."
The Woolwich Crown Court convicted Osborne over his attempt to use a van as a murder weapon, which followed three major terror attacks that killed dozens of people in Manchester and London.
The court heard during the trial that Osborne initially intended to drive the van into a Palestinian march in central London, hoping to make a victim out of opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
- Indescribable pain
Ruzina Akhtar, the daughter of the terror attack victim, said she could not describe the pain she and her relatives had suffered.
In a statement read to the court, she said her father was taken from them “in a cruel way by a very narrow-minded, heartless being."
“My heart was shattered when I saw my father lying in the morgue. I couldn’t see his smile,” she said of her pain during the identification process.
"The last few months have been very hard for our family, as we have tried to adjust to life without our father,” Akhtar told the media following the sentencing.
"It was particularly hard for us to sit in court and listen to Darren Osborne deny he had done anything wrong.
"Our father -- like the victims of most terrorism -- was entirely innocent, which makes his death in this violent way all the more hurtful,” she said.
- Fear of being targeted
Akhtar also said in the court statement that her mother now feared being targeted because of her religion.
“My mom is scared to go out by herself in case she is attacked because she is visibly a Muslim who wears a headscarf.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC also confirmed that Osborne’s victims had suffered “flashbacks, fear of going out onto the street” and had lost confidence since the attack.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) welcomed the conviction of Darren Osborne on Thursday but underlined how far-right propaganda effectively targeted the Muslim community in Britain.
“The scenes we witnessed last summer were the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia yet in our country,” Harun Khan, secretary general of the council, said in a statement.
“We cannot be complacent and regard this as a one-off incident,” Khan said.
“We heard during the trial how Osborne was motivated by anti-Muslim groups and Islamophobic tropes not only prevalent in far-right circles, but also made acceptable in our mainstream,” Khan added.
- 'Ticking time bomb'
During the trial, the jury heard from the prosecution that Osborne's attack was an act of terrorism driven by his hatred of Muslims.
Sarah Andrews, Orborne’s partner, told police detectives that his attitude had dramatically changed weeks before the attack after watching Three Girls, a BBC TV drama about a sex abuse scandal.
Describing Osborne as a "ticking time bomb”, she said in a witness statement that he had become “obsessed” with Muslims and became a follower of far-right figures such as former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson and fringe far-right group Britain First’s members.
The jury heard that after the attack, Osborne was saved by an imam, who protected him despite his attempt to run down Muslims.
Osborne, seen smiling, apparently said: “I’ve done my bit.”
- 'Terror attack'
Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb said Osborne had been “convicted after overwhelming evidence by a jury who saw through your pathetic last-ditch attempt to deceive them.”
Showing no sign of remorse throughout the trial, Osborne claimed in court that another person called “Dave” was driving the van during the incident.
The judge said Osborne was "rapidly radicalized over the Internet by those determined to spread hatred of Muslims."
"Your use of Twitter exposed you to racists and anti-Islamic ideology," she added.
"In short you allowed your mind to be poisoned by those who claimed to be leaders.
“This was a terror attack. This was a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, racial or ideological cause,” the judge added.