PUBLISHED: 12:04 EST, 29 April 2012 | UPDATED: 12:50 EST, 29 April 2012
A controversial Florida pastor has staged another Koran-burning ceremony to protest about the imprisonment of a Christian clergyman in Iran.
Publicity-grabbing Terry Jones, who caused international outrage and violent protests when he filmed the burning of the Islamic holy book last March, set several copies of the Koran on fire in a similar incident on Saturday night.
A gathering of approximately 20 people attended the ceremony at the Dove World Outreach Center, the small church that Jones heads in Gainesville, Florida.
During the ceremony, where Jones became a ‘judge’ in a ‘trial’ of the Koran, he demanded the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who was jailed for converting from Islam to Christianity.
The church’s website said that a few people left the building as the Koran, which had been soaked in kerosene, was set alight. An image of the Muslim prophet Muhammad was also burned.
The Pentagon had earlier implored Jones to reconsider burning the holy book arguing that the lives of American soldiers fighting abroad could be put at risk.
Despite this warning, the burning – partly in protest about Nadarkhani – went ahead and was streamed live across the internet.
In October 2009 Nadarkhani was arrested and condemned to death under Islamic sharia law for converting to Christianity when he was 19.
Iran’s supreme court overturned the death sentence last July and he had a retrial in his hometown of Rasht, in Gilan province at the end of September 2001.
No verdict was made public after this hearing. Several western countries, including the U.S and Britain, have condemned Iran’s treatment of Nadarkhani, who is the pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran.
Immediately after Saturday’s burning the Gainesville Fire Department issued a citation against the church.
Fire chief Gene Prince told The Gainesville Sun that the church would be fined $271 for burning the books, as well as court costs.
The 2011 Koran-burning ceremony triggered violent riots in Afghanistan, in which at least 12 people were killed.
Jones is a former hotel manager who was previously ejected from a church he headed in Germany by his own followers there.