The US pastor whose burning of a Koran sparked deadly violence in Afghanistan was briefly jailed in a heavily Islamic suburb on Friday after a court banned his protest outside a mosque.
A local judge jailed Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida and his associate Wayne Sapp after a court found their planned protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, could lead to violence.
During his court appearance, Pastor Jones argued that the Koran “promotes terrorist activities around the world.”
He also insisted that his right to protest against Islam was protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
“The First Amendment does us no good if it confines us to saying what is popular,” he pointed out.
But Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad testified that his department had received information about serious threats made against Pastor Jones from local residents, and argued that his protest could lead to violence if allowed.
Prosecutor Robert Moran argued that the protest had nothing to do with the First Amendment and at stake were security and peace in the community.
The jury sided with the prosecution and Judge Mark Somers set bond at the symbolic amount of $1 each for the two pastors, which they initially refused to pay.
Following their refusal, both were escorted to a local jail. But local media reported both men changed their minds after spending about an hour behind bars and posted the $1 bond.
Under the judge’s ruling, both Pastor Jones and Mr Sapp are now prohibited by the court from going to the mosque for three years.
But Pastor Jones was quoted by The Detroit Free Press as saying the two “will come back next week” to try to organise a new protest.
Pastor Jones and Mr Sapp made international headlines after their ceremonial “trial and execution” of the Koran by burning led to deadly protests in Afghanistan.
Last month’s Koran burning unleashed protests across Afghanistan, some of which were violent. Seven UN staff were killed during one protest in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on April 1. Overall, more than 20 people have been killed.
“Islam is not a religion of peace,” he said in an earlier statement. “The time has come to hold Islam accountable.”
He said that Muslim-dominated countries could no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities.
“They must alter the laws that govern their countries to allow for individual freedoms and rights, such as the right to worship, free speech, and to move freely without fear of being attacked or killed,” he stated.
Pastor Jones presided over the burning of the Islamic holy book March 20 at his Florida church, an act he had long threatened despite warnings it would put American troops and others in Afghanistan in danger.
Dearborn is home to the largest Islamic community in the United States.
In the 2000 census, Arab Americans comprised 30 per cent of Dearborn’s population.