LONDON - A man accused of involving two teenage boys in self-flagellation as part of a Muslim religious ritual was convicted of child cruelty Wednesday.
British prosecutors said it was the first time anyone in England had been tried for allegedly making children flog themselves, a practice used by some Shiite Muslims use to mark Ashoura, commemorating the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein.
Prosecutors said Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, forced the teens to flog themselves at a Muslim community centre in the northern English city of Manchester on Jan. 19. The flail they used carried small blades attached by chains that left superficial lacerations on their backs.
Zaidi told Manchester Crown Court that the children - 13 and 15 at the time - had asked to participate. "No one forced anyone," he said.
The jury took less than three hours to convict him of two counts of child cruelty. Sentencing was set for next month.