Arsonist spared jail

An Iranian Kurd asylum-seeker was handed a suspended jail sentence for setting fire to the Iranian Embassy.

Ali Rahmi, 21, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to one count of arson on 29 September 2008.

The court heard how he doused the armour-plated front doors of the embassy in petrol and set them alight.

Embassy officials raised the alarm, and DPG officers were on the scene within four minutes.

No staff were injured in the attack which caused £3,000 worth of damage. The assailant was later captured after a DPG investigation team discovered an image of the him on the Embassy’s CCTV footage. Rahimi was arrested and charged on September 27 with arson and intent to endanger life.

The court was told that the incident came just days after Rahmi received news that a relative had been killed in Iran. Rahmi himself had arrived in Britain two years earlier seeking asylum, claiming Iranian security forces had tried to kill him. His request was refused but he appealed and the case was under review at the time of the attack.

Prosecutor Peter Zinner told the court that the attack was a “venting of anger… a totally irrational outburst of violence to protest against what he perceives to be his mistreatment”.

Judge James Wadsworth said it was a “clearly serious crime” but he would spare Rahmi immediate imprisonment because of his experiences.

Describing Rahmi’s actions as “a betrayal” of his position in the UK, Wadsworth said he was compelled to impose a prison sentence of 50 weeks but suspended it for two years.

Chief Inspector Steve Marshall of Diplomatic Protection Group Operations, said Rahimi was “an extremely dangerous individual,” adding: “This was a clear and determined attack on the Embassy which endangered the lives of those working inside.”