DETROIT (Reuters) – A Detroit prosecutor has filed a petition in district court to stop a Florida fundamentalist Christian preacher, who recently caused riots in Afghanistan after he burned a Koran, from holding a rally outside a large Michigan mosque.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the threat of violence was too great to allow Terry Jones to hold the planned gathering on Friday near the Islamic Center of America — the largest U.S. mosque — in the heavily Muslim Detroit suburb of Dearborn.
A hearing on Worthy’s bid to block Jones and his supporters from holding the rally at the mosque will be held on Thursday in a Dearborn court. The petition is dated April 15.
Prosecutors argue that the planned gathering by Jones could incite a riot, citing hundreds of email death threats against the preacher.
Officials have asked the court to order Jones to hold his gathering away from the mosque in one of the four “free speech zones” designated by the city of Dearborn for public demonstrations.
Jones told a Detroit television station that he still plans to go ahead with the rally, adding that he comes in peace but that he and his followers will be carrying guns.
More than 20 people were killed and dozens injured when riots erupted in Afghanistan after Jones burned a Koran on March 20 inside his Gainesville, Florida, church.
Jones claims he is protesting only against radical Muslims and is not against all who practice Islam.
In a city north of Kandahar earlier this month, seven foreign U.N. staff and five Afghan protesters were killed after demonstrators overran a U.N. office.
Worthy’s filing cites the deaths that followed the March 20 Koran burning.
Jones told Detroit’s WXYZ-TV news that he was surprised by the filing.
“We have made it very clear that we are coming there with very, very peaceful intentions,” Jones told the television station. “We will be armed. We do have concealed weapons permits.”
The 58-year-old Jones, the head of a small church called the Dove World Outreach Center, drew worldwide condemnation in September over his initial plans to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
He backed down after pleas from the U.S. government and other world officials, but then presided over a March 20 mock trial of the Koran that included a torching of the book.
Jones has called his demonstration “Stand Up America Now.” Local demonstrators in Michigan plan a counter rally under the banner “Stop the Hate.”
Jones plans to hold his gathering on Good Friday, the day that Christians honor the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Additional reporting by David Bailey. Editing by Peter Bohan)
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