Inciting anger ... Pastor Terry Jones at the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, in 2010. Photo: AP
A Koran burning conducted by Terry Jones, the inflammatory pastor from Florida, has angered Iranian politicians, with one calling for Jones' execution.
Mr Jones, who gained worldwide attention in 2010 when he threatened to burn 200 copies of the Koran but backed off after pleas from world leaders, on Saturday set fire to several copies of the Muslim holy book and an image of the prophet of Islam, Mohammad. Mr Jones said the purpose was to raise attention about a Christian pastor held in an Iranian prison.
The Koran burning event at Mr Jones' church, the Dove World Outreach Centre, in Gainesville, Florida, was live-streamed on the Internet, and had not been widely announced.
Mr Jones' Koran burning followed a series of riots in February in Afghanistan and elsewhere, after the US military accidentally burned copies of the book on the Bagram Air Base, near Kabul. Dozens of people died during the protests.
Iran's Foreign Ministry condemned Mr Jones' actions on Monday, calling for the United States to prevent such incidents. One member of parliament, Hossein Ibrahim, a Shiite cleric, called Mr Jones "evil and an apostate" and said he must be executed, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Mr Jones was quoted by the Christiantoday.com website as saying that the intent of the Koran burning was to protest the imprisonment of an Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani. Groups of Christians worldwide have called for Iran to release Mr Nadarkhani, 29, who had converted to Christianity. Conversion from Islam is a crime in Iran theoretically punishable by death.
Mr Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 on charges of apostasy and evangelisation, but Iranian prosecutors later replaced those charges with accusations of rape and extortion. They said the case had nothing to do with religion and had been whipped up by Western media. But the final disposition of the case in Iran's judicial system has yet to be officially announced.
The New York Times