DETROIT - A jury trial for Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones is underway over his plans to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, the largest mosque in the United States
The main issue of the trial will be whether or not Jones' main purpose was to say or do something that would incite violence. If the jury decides that is the case, Jones will be told that he cannot protest. If he goes through with his protest, he could be arrested.
At the start of the trial, prosecutors presented their arguments before the jury. They argue that a protest outside the mosque in Dearborn would pose a significant safety issue. They argued that there is concern from authorities that someone may get hurt.
In addition to concerns of safety, prosecutors say the Gainesville, Florida pastor would not be following the law if he held a protest outside the mosque after he was denied a permit for that particular location. He was asked to hold his protest in a permit free zone, but insisted that they would still hold their protest outside of the mosque.
Jones spoke in court and argued that he has the First Amendment right to protest outside the mosque.
“I believe… they will try and show you many pictures of events trying to paint us into a [certain] light. There are possible things we did concerning Quran and the burning of the Quran which you possibly may not agree with. One thing I think we have to remember, this is to a certain extent a First Amendment issue,” said Jones.
During his opening statement before the jury, Jones talked about the charges they make against the Quran.
"“The burning of the Quran is obviously to some people offensive. We charge the Quran in three ways; the Quran is charged with the training and promoting of…activities around the world; the Quran is charged with the death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being Muslim; the Quran is charged with crimes against women…against minorities, against Christians with the promoting of prejudice and racism against anyone who is not a Muslim," said Jones.
The pastor's associate, Wayne Sapp, is also in court to testify about their intent to hold the protest. He told the court they have no intention of causing any violence. When questioned by prosecutors, Sapp said they planned to hold the protest regardless of the outcome of today's proceedings. Sapp was also questioned by Terry Jones, who is representing himself in the case.
Prosecutors also brought up safety concerns about Terry Jones carrying a firearm after his weapon accidentally discharged in the parking lot at Fox 2 Thursday night. No one was injured.
During his first court appearance on Thursday, the judge ordered that Jones had to post a peace bond, a court order that requires a person to submit money that would guarantee that they would not commit a breach of peace.
Jones refused to post the peace bond, and now has a right to have a trial by jury to decide if the court was correct in imposing the bond. The pastor chose to have a trial by jury instead of letting the judge decide. The main purpose of the trial is to determine what is Jones' intent in holding the protest.
Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad also took the stand to testify in the case. Chief Haddad denied the permit request that would allow the protest to take place outside of the mosque. He testified that there were concerns over safety. Terry Jones also questioned Chief Haddad. He referred to a conversation he had with the Chief and asked him what his impression was after they had met. Chief Haddad responded that Jones was cordial and did not appear to be violent in nature.
Earlier Thursday, Pastor Jones was escorted by police from Metro Airport to the courthouse.
The hearing was ordered after prosecutors argued that the threat of violence is too great and hope to stop the protest from happening.
Local officials have been asking Jones to stay away.
City officials have also asked Jones to hold the demonstration outside city hall and not outside the Islamic Center, if he plans to carry on with the protest.
Jones says he will not do that and in fact he told the judge he is worried now the trial will edge out his plan to protest at the Islamic Center.
The Dearborn Police Chief says if Jones does try to demonstrate in front of the Islamic Center he will be arrested.
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