Jews and Hindus banned from jury

A judge took the unusual step step yesterday of banning Jews and Hindus from sitting on a jury which is to try a Muslim cleric accused of calling for the murder of followers of the two faiths.

Abdullah el-Faisal, 39, a Jamaican-born preacher at two mosques in north-west London before his arrest in February last year, allegedly exhorted his followers to kill "non-believers" namely Jews, Indian Hindus and Americans in a series of cassette recordings carrying titles such as "No Peace with the Jews" and "Them and Us".

The decision to exclude people from the Jewish or Hindu religions from the jury came after a day of legal argument at the Old Bailey at the start of a trial expected to last three weeks.

Judge Beaumont, the Common Serjeant of London and the second most senior judge at the court, told a panel of 60 potential jurors that the nature of the case against Mr Faisal meant Jews and Hindus, or anyone married to a follower of the two faiths, could not sit on the jury. The judge told the court the move was "for reasons that will be obvious when the prosecution set out to explain what they seek to prove to the 12 people chosen to form the jury".

In the event, none of the chosen jury of five women and seven men had to be excluded on grounds of religion, although five potential jurors were allowed to step down because of work or holiday commitments.

Mr Faisal, from Stratford, east London, who sat in the dock in a gold-braided robe and skull cap, listened intently as charges of soliciting to murder, inciting race hatred and using threatening language were read out. He denies all the allegations. If found guilty he could be jailed for life.