Qur'an-burning pastor jailed before mosque protest

The Qur'an-burning Florida pastor who stoked deadly protests in Afghanistan was briefly jailed by a judge after saying he would defy a Michigan court and demonstrate outside the largest mosque in the U.S.
Florida pastor Terry Jones makes a statement to the jury Friday in the 19th District Dearborn Court during a hearing in front of Judge Mark Somers about Jones's right to protest in Dearborn, Mich. (John T. Greilick /The Detroit News/Reuters)

The Qur'an-burning Florida pastor who stoked deadly protests in Afghanistan has been jailed by a judge after saying he would defy a Michigan court and stage a demonstration outside the largest mosque in the United States.

On Friday, the judge decided the protest planned by Terry Jones, 59, was likely to provoke violence and the pastor and supporter Wayne Sapp refused to agree to the terms of an order from District Judge Mark Somers that would have required them to pay $1 and stay away from the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., for three years.

After the men were remanded to jail, they were led out of court by Dearborn police officers. Jones later paid the peace bond and was released.

Chaos erupted outside the courthouse when Jones's supporters and opponents got into a yelling match, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Jones led his Gainesville, Fla., congregation in a mock trial against the Qur'an last month in which a copy of the Muslim holy book was burned. Ensuing widespread protests in Afghanistan saw at least 20 deaths, including three United Nations staff members and four peacekeepers.

Jones, who claims he is denouncing only Muslim radicals and not all practitioners of Islam, says he feels "absolutely no" responsibility for the fatalities.

"I won't feel responsible. We're revealing their true nature — they're going to take over America," he told a U.S. TV reporter.  

Authorities in Wayne County denied Jones a permit to protest on a city lot across from the mosque, citing the high cost of providing security for the powder-keg rally. They said he and his followers could gather at one of several alternate sites instead.

After the Florida evangelical leader insisted his demonstration would go ahead, prosecutors obtained a court ruling Thursday that he must post a $100,000 bond as an assurance he wouldn't breach the peace.

The issue was back in court Friday, and an adamant Jones said that no matter the outcome, his demonstration would go ahead.

U.S. religious leaders of several faiths, including evangelicals, have called on Jones to back down, calling his actions religious bigotry and a betrayal of the Christian imperative to "love thy neighbour."

The head of the largest U.S. veterans group, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, has also implored Jones to relent, saying his actions could hurt American troops overseas.