A GROUP of Muslims have escaped prison after a fight broke out as they began praying at the famous Mesquita in Cordoba.
The nine Austrians were facing 15 years in prison between them for assault and orchestrating prayers in the historic mosque, which is now consecrated as a cathedral.
Prayers have been outlawed at the cathedral since 2010 despite Muslims repeatedly lobbying the Roman Catholic Church.
The court heard how the group allegedly arrived separately with walkie-talkies and refused to stop praying when asked by security guards.
They claim however that they did not know praying at the cathedral was banned before taking part in a three minute prayer, led by Zaid El-Aifari.
The cleric told the court how onlookers had asked the guards to let them finish their prayers.
He also denied that any of the group attacked security guards and claims trouble broke out only when a guard took out a truncheon and began to hit them.
He alleged that he was physically assaulted by a guard, while two of his group denied attacking the guards with a Swiss Army knife and crutches.
Currently Muslim visitors are informed when they buy their tickets that praying is banned.
The group was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Judge Juan Luis Rascon said: “Although their behaviour could be considered socially reprehensible by some, to convict them would do a disservice to freedom of religious thought and respect for the plurality of religions.”