Three men accused of burning down a mosque in Columbia were in court Monday.

Jonathan Stone, 18, Michael Golden, 22, and Eric Baker, 22, are charged with arson of a religious building after they allegedly burned down the Islamic Center of Columbia and painted racial slurs on the walls.

Monday, their attorneys focused on a technicality in the state’s law.

The attorneys said the mosque shouldn’t even be considered a religious facility, since leaders never filed the appropriate paperwork with the state that would deem the mosque tax exempt.

Dauod Abudiab, the center’s president, admits their treasurer was confused about the law and said they have since taken steps to fix the problem.

“I believe out of lack of knowledge he did not inquire into that,” he told News 2.

The judge dismissed the argument, saying prayer was the only event that ever occurred in the burned out building.

Investigators with the Alcohol Tobacco Firearms Bureau also testified about interviews with the defendants.

Carl Bengston, who interviewed Golden, described the early morning hours of February 9 saying, “Then they went to a gas station where he filled up some bottles, he was then handed a rag and put on in each of the bottles. He then said he accompanied the individuals to the Islamic center.”

Investigators said there were signs of forced entry in the back part of the building and homemade bombs known as Moltov cocktails were set off from the inside. (MORE)


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