An arsonist convicted of burning down a Texas mosque last year was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison for a crime prosecutors said was motivated by hate.
Marq Perez had been found guilty in July of a hate crime and felony arson in the January 2017 burning of the Victoria Islamic Center in Southeast Texas.
The 26-year-old had broken into the mosque a week before the arson in order to conduct reconnaissance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement citing trial testimony.
A witness testified that on the night of the crime Perez used a lighter to set papers on fire, and described “how excited Perez was upon seeing the mosque in flames just minutes later,” DOJ said.
The witness testified that Perez wanted to “send a message,” it said, adding that others gave testimony about the suspect’s use of anti-Muslim slurs.
“Mr Perez sought to provoke terror,” FBI Agent Edward Michel said in a statement.
“No one in this country should feel afraid to openly practice their religion or express their beliefs.”
The crime elicited an outpouring of support from around the world for the Islamic community in the city of Victoria, Texas.
An online GoFundMe campaign raised more than $1 million from donors in 90 countries to rebuild the mosque. It reopened in September.
“We’re tremendously humbled and overwhelmed by the emotional and financial support you have given and continue to give us throughout this calamity,” the mosque said on its GoFundMe page.