US law enforcement officers have arrested a Florida pastor on his way to a park to set fire to nearly 3,000 Korans in protest over the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Pastor Terry Jones, 61, and his associate pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr, 34, on felony charges as he drove a pickup truck towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with Koran soaked in kerosene. He had said he was heading to a nearby park to burn 2,998 Korans – one for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mulberry’s mayor, along with area elected officials, a sheriff’s deputy and several Polk County residents have talked about the need to express love and tolerance for all faiths on Sept. 11.
Jones is the pastor of a small evangelical Christian church. He first gained attention in 2010 when he planned to burn a Koran on 9/11, although he eventually called it off. His congregation did burn the Muslim holy book in March 2011 and last year he promoted an anti-Muslim film. All three incidents sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The most violent protest happened after the 2011 Koran burning as hundreds of protesters stormed a UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards.
Jones has repeatedly ignored pleas from the US military asking him not to stage his protests. Military officials say his actions put American and Western troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere in danger.
Mulberry is a town of about 3,000 between Orlando and Tampa and has no connection to Jones’ church, which recently moved out of its Gainesville building.
An Egyptian court convicted Jones, along with seven Egyptian Coptic Christians in absentia, sentencing them to death on charges linked to the film. The ruling was seen as largely symbolic because Jones and the other defendants live outside of Egypt.
Edited by Bonnie Malkin