Woman, 53, guilty of posting menacing messages about Muslims

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan gave evidence during the woman's trial
Dr Raied Al-Wazzan gave evidence during the woman's trial

A Belfast woman who posted a series of menacing messsages on a website, including a comment which suggested all Muslims should be sent to the gas chambers, is to be sentenced for the offences next month.

Anne Bothwell appeared at Belfast Magistrate’s Court on Thursday to contest a total of seven charges against her.

Whilst she was convicted of six charges, the seventh was dismissed.

The 53-year old, from Ashmore Street, posted a series of comments on the Protestant Coalition’s Facebook page concerning both Muslims and Dr Raied Al-Wazzan - a senior figure within the Muslim community in Northern Ireland.

Giving evidence during Thursday’s contest, Dr Al-Wazzan said the content of some of the messages posted by Bothwell on the Facebook page caused him to fear for his life and for his family’s safety.

Bothwell denied her messages were harmful and said she wrote them in humour.

She also claimed that as Dr Al-Wazzan was the person who complained to police about a sermon given by Pastor McConnell - which resulted in the pastor being taken to court - she made the comments as she was “upset” by what happened.

Bothwell was charged with seven counts of improper use of a public electronic communications network.

Six of the charges were sending a menacing message, whilst the seventh was sending a message that was grossly offensive.

All the charge arose from messages Bothwell posted on the Protestant Coalition’s Facebook page between January 14 and 16.

Dr Al-Wazzan said he became aware that a picture of him had been posted on the group’s Facebook page after the group organised an anti-refugee rally, and he attended a demonstration in support of refugees.

He said that after seeing an image of himself on the Facebook page, he was “curious to see the comments underneath”.

He also said that after reading some of the “unpleasant” comments, he reported the matter to the police.

Dr Al-Wazzan said that despite not knowing Bothwell, there were several comments from her which suggested he should be shot, and that Muslims should be sent to the gas chamber.

She also referred to him as Wizzy-Wazzy, accused him of practising witchcraft, said Muslim women “are all over Belfast on their broomsticks and should be burnt at the stake”, and when another poster asked what could be done about Dr Al-Wazzan, Bothwell commented “where are the guns, that would end the problem”.

Dr Al-Wazzan said that as a result of the online comments, it put his life “under threat”.

Regarding the post about guns, Dr Al-Wazzan told the court he felt the comment “could encourage other people to use violence”.

When she was called to give evidence, Bothwell denied the messages she posted were threatening or menacing. Instead, she said some of the comments were taken in the wrong context, and also said that due to some comments before hers being “nasty”, she “tried to make humour of it”.

Bothwell said that if Dr Al-Wazzan had asked her to remove her comments, she would have done so. She then told the court it was her belief that Dr Al-Wazzan “logged on to see who he could get into trouble”.

District Judge Ken Nixon convicted Bothwell of the six charges related to a menacing message, and dismissed the charge linked to the grossly offensive post.

She will be sentenced on August 11.