WASHINGTON — The US State Department on Monday denounced the burning of copies of the Koran and a depiction of the prophet Mohammed by a Florida pastor, saying the acts did not reflect American values.
“We find such action deplorable. We find it disrespectful. I, frankly, don’t want to give this issue or that individual any more air time here,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
“This is the act of one individual and in no way reflects the values of the American people or of the US government,” Nuland said.
The burning, attended by 20 people and streamed live over the Internet, was carried out by pastor Terry Jones at his church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, The Gainesville Sun said.
Video of the burning was uploaded to YouTube by the pastor’s supporting group “Stand Up America Now.”
The actions were taken to protest the imprisonment in Iran of a Christian clergyman, Youcef Nadarkhani.
The Pentagon had urged Jones to reconsider, expressing concern that US forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere could be put at greater risk because of the act, the newspaper said, but Jones insisted on going ahead with the protest.
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death under Islamic sharia law for converting to Christianity when he was 19.
Now 34, he is a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran. Iran’s supreme court in July 2011 overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Nadarkhani’s hometown of Rasht, in Gilan province.
His retrial took place at the end of September 2011 with no verdict made public.
Several Western countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and France condemned the death sentence and said they feared it could be carried out soon.