A controversial Florida pastor has burned copies of the Koran and a depiction of the prophet Mohammed to protest the imprisonment in Iran of a Christian clergyman Youcef Nadarkhani.
The burning, attended by 20 people and streamed live over the Internet, was carried out by pastor Terry Jones’ church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, The Gainesville Sun said, and video of the burning was uploaded to YouTube by the pastor’s supporting group “Stand Up America Now.”
The Pentagon had urged Jones to reconsider, expressing concern that American soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere could be put at greater risk because of the act, according to the newspaper, but Jones insisted to go ahead with the protest in the name of the release of the Christian pastor in Iran.
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death under Islamic sharia law for converting to Christianity when he was 19.
Now 34, he is a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran. Iran’s supreme court in July 2011 overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Nadarkhani’s hometown of Rasht, in Gilan province.
His retrial took place at the end of September 2011 with no verdict made public.
Several Western countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and France, condemned the death sentence and said they feared it could be carried out soon.
In March 2011, the US pastor’s assistant burned a copy of the Koran and broadcast the ceremony on the Internet, with the images inciting violence in northern Afghanistan, in which at least 12 people were killed.
Moments after the burning on Saturday, the Gainesville fire department issued the church a citation for violating the city’s fire ordinances, the report said.