A FORMER Fylde-based soldier has been jailed for attempting to blow up a mosque.
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.
The jury had heard how Beech, who was discharged from the Army earlier this year, was arrested at Weeton Barracks, near Kirkham, following the incident.
Both men were jailed for 10 years.
The pair set fire to the mosque, in Regent Road in the Hanley area of Stoke, in what the court was told was a revenge attack after Muslim extremists burned poppies on Armistice Day.
Both men had denied causing the blaze on December 3 last year.
During the four-day trial, Beech, 23, told the court he had been a member of the English Defence League and the British National Party but insisted he was not a racist and said he did not believe his views to be extreme.
The former serviceman and 29-year-old Foster, of Harsthill Road, Stoke-on-Trent, both denied running a pipe into the building from a nearby gas meter in a bid to spark an explosion. The blaze caused £50,000 damage.
A jury of five men and seven women took just over five hours to convict the men.
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.”
Paul Spratt, prosecuting, said: “He found persons through Facebook who had like-minded views. One observation he plainly agreed with was ‘Nuke All Mosques’.”
Chief Insp Jeff Moore, commander of Stoke-on-Trent Central Local Policing Team, said: “These sentences send out a clear message – this kind of criminal act will not be tolerated in Staffordshire.”