October 5, 2010 / 3:52 PM / 7 years ago

France charges man for burning, urinating on Koran

* Man faces up to 5 yrs in prison for inciting hatred

* U.S. preacher had sparked anger with Koran burning plans

By Gilbert Reilhac

STRASBOURG, Oct 5 (Reuters) - A blogger who filmed himself burning the Koran and urinating on it to put out the flames is to appear in court in eastern France, charged with incitement to religious hatred, legal sources said on Tuesday.

Threats in September by a Florida preacher to hold a high-profile protest burning of the Koran sparked global outrage among Muslims, and triggered violent protests in Afghanistan in which one protester was shot dead.

The book-burning subsequently was cancelled, after U.S. President Barack Obama warned it could endanger lives and act as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

In the film, which was posted on the Internet, the 30-year-old blogger from Bischheim near Strasbourg is seen sitting in his living room wearing a devil’s mask and tearing pages out of a copy of the Koran to make paper airplanes.

He then throws the airplanes at two upended boxes, arranged to look like the Twin Towers in New York, before burning the book on his balcony and urinating on it.

The man, who was arrested on Monday, faces up to five years in prison after being identified by police using his telephone number which is visible in the images.

“He claims full responsibility. He says he’s not a right-wing extremist but that in France he can burn the Koran, just as he can burn a Winnie the Pooh book, without worrying about the consequences,” Strasbourg deputy prosecutor Gilles Delorme told Reuters.

The Strasbourg blogger gave no explanation for his act, Delorme said, but the incident is the latest in a spate of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts of vandalism in the city since the start of the year.

The French Muslim Council (CFCM) said on Tuesday it would file a complaint against the blogger, but called on French Muslims “to remain vigilant and face this series of provocations with calm.”

The incident comes when the country is already on heightened alert for potential attacks, following the kidnapping last month of five French hostages in Niger by al Qaeda’s North African arm and a number of bomb threats across the capital Paris.

Writing by Vicky Buffery; Editing by John Irish and Michael Roddy

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