Facebook post about poppy graffiti on mosque is misleading

24 June 2021
What was claimed

Two men were sent to prison for defacing a mosque with a poppy, while two others only received fines for burning poppies and defacing a memorial.

Our verdict

The two men sent to prison also admitted to a number of other racially motivated offences.

A Facebook post claims that two men were sentenced to six months in prison for spray-painting a poppy on a mosque in Portsmouth, while two other men who defaced a war memorial and burned two large plastic poppies were only fined for their offences.  

This is an old viral post, based on events from 2010 and 2011, and is missing crucial context.

It’s true that Tohseef Shah and Emdadur Choudhury were fined for spray painting a war memorial and burning plastic poppies respectively (Mr Shah received a two-year conditional discharge and had to pay £500 compensation while Mr Choudhury was fined £50 and paid a £15 victim surcharge). 

However, while two men were sentenced to six months in prison after spray painting a poppy on a mosque, it wasn’t at Portsmouth’s Jami Mosque, as is seen in the post, and these men had committed other crimes. 

The Jami Mosque in Portsmouth, pictured in the Facebook post, was defaced with a painting of a poppy in 2010 after protests linked to the English Defence League. There are no reports of anyone being charged for the poppy graffiti specifically. 

The Facebook post may have been referring to a different case, when two men were sentenced for defacing a mosque with pictures of poppies in Hartlepool in 2010. However, these men also committed a number of other offences.

According to a court report in The Northern Echo, Steven James Vasey and Anthony Donald Smith, also wrote the initials EDL and NEI (North-East Infidels), and the words “no surrender”, as well as the poppies, on the mosque.

Similar graffiti was daubed on a nearby shop and a guest house owned by an Asian businessman, and a window at the shop was also smashed.

The court heard that the men planned this attack beforehand, alongside another accomplice who received a 12 month suspended sentence, and it was therefore considered to be racially motivated.  

Both men pled guilty and were each sentenced to a year in prison.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because it omits crucial detail about the other crimes the two men were sentenced for.

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