A 25-year-old Maryland man was sentenced to one year in prison yesterday after sending email threats to an Illinois mosque, demanding that the mosque close or else he would “eradicate Islam.”
The man, Ilya Sobolevskiy, pleaded guilty in August to obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, a civil rights violation. He was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Illinois to 12 months in prison and a $3,000 fine.
The judge who sentenced him called the threats “an act of terror.”
According to prosecutors, Sobolevskiy was a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 when he visited a nearby mosque with a roommate. While there, he exchanged emails with a member of the mosque, who happened to be the webmaster for the mosque’s web site.
Prosecutors say that Sobolevskiy then began emailing the webmaster and posting on the mosque’s web site, demanding to know why the mosque was associated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and why the mosque did not denounce Islamic terrorism. According to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, his emails became “increasingly frightening.”
They culminated in an email sent May 4, 2008, demanding the mosque shut its doors:
Close down the CIMIC [Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center] by May 12th, or it will be closed for you. the muslims that attend it are not to be seen in public with their beards or hijabs. tell them to get rid of such things. failure to comply will result in much tribulations for you and muslims in the region. i am not afraid to do whatever it takes to eradicate islam. WHATEVER it takes.
Mosque officials reported the email to the FBI, which investigated through its Springfield office.
“It is a top priority of the FBI to protect the civil rights of the American people. We encourage members of the community to report all allegations of civil rights violations. The FBI will aggressively investigate these matters to ensure that our society remains free,” said Stuart R. McArthur, the special agent in charge of the Springfield office, in a DOJ press release.