In the bright sunshine on the steps outside the convention centre, a gaunt, bearded figure jabs his finger into the air and chants: "Christopher Hitchens, burn in hell!"

The small group of men clustered around him repeat the slogan as they wave signs describing atheism as a cancer and Islam as its cure. They appear to relish the abuse rained down on them from the large crowd surrounding them.

The protest outside this year's Global Atheist Convention at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre - captured on video and posted on YouTube - was the Australian public's first glimpse of Harun Mehicevic and his band of devoted followers. But the next time the public spotlight fell on him, it would be in far more dramatic circumstances.

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