Authorities prevent protest outside largest US mosque

Koran-burning preacher Terry Jones jailed briefly to prevent protest in Michigan that was "likely to provoke violence."

By REUTERS
April 23, 2011 06:23
2 minute read.
Pastor Terry Jones taken into custody in Michigan

Terry Jones Arrested 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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DEARBORN, Mich. - A militant Christian preacher was jailed briefly on Friday after a Michigan court ruled that a protest he planned outside a mosque was likely to provoke violence and ordered him to stay away.

Terry Jones, whose burning of a Koran in March triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan, had planned a protest outside the largest mosque in the United States.

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Jones was sent to jail after he refused to pay a $1 bond ordered by Judge Mark Somers, who also ordered him to stay away for three years from the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

Police said Jones and a supporter, Wayne Sapp, were later released from custody after the token $1 bond was paid.

A six-person jury in a Dearborn court decided earlier that the planned protest was "likely to breach the peace" in the Detroit suburb with a large Muslim American population.

Jones, 59, is the leader of a tiny, fringe fundamentalist church in Gainesville, Florida. He was an unknown until he courted publicity and controversy by burning the Koran as part of what he describes as a campaign against "radical Islam."

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Jones had asked for a permit to stage a protest on Good Friday on public land across from the mosque. City officials said the mosque and four nearby churches were expected to be crowded with several thousand worshipers at that time.

Police denied Jones's request and asked him to protest instead in a "free speech zone" in front of one of the city buildings. Jones argued that violated his free speech rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union petitioned unsuccessfully for the case against Jones to be thrown out.

An ACLU spokeswoman said officials had violated free speech protections in the US Constitution and given more publicity to a divisive fringe figure by trying to bar his protest.

"We vehemently disagree with Mr. Jones and his cohorts. However, this is a complete abuse of the court process," said ACLU spokeswoman Rana Elmir.

"I believe that Rev. Jones came to Dearborn for his 15 minutes of fame and the judge and prosecutors have now effectively given him hours of that."

Hundreds of people gathered in light rain outside a Dearborn library to protest against Jones.

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