Iran clerics for slaying Koran burners as crowd protests
Two top Iranian clerics said anyone desecrating the Koran must be killed, Fars news agency reported, as hundreds of people protested on Monday outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran.
"From the point of view of Islamic jurisprudence, strong objection to such thoughts is mandatory and necessary and killing the people who have committed this act is compulsory," Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani was quoted as saying by Fars.
His view was echoed by Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi who added that such a response must be taken after consulting a "religious judge."
"The blood of the person who burns the Koran can undoubtedly be shed. But in this issue, no action should be taken without the permission of a religious judge," Makarem Shirazi told Fars.
Evangelical pastor Terry Jones had threatened in the run up to the 9th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to burn the Koran at his tiny Florida church. He later relented.
But a group of conservative Christians tore up pages of the Koran in a protest on Saturday outside the White House.
Top Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have issued harsh criticism over the issue, with the hardliner even saying that a bid to burn the Muslim holy book was a "Zionist plot" that would lead to the speedy "annihilation" of Israel.
Meanwhile up to 500 people demonstrated outside the Swiss embassy in northern Tehran in protest against the United States over the Koran-burning issue.
An AFP photographer said the crowd, chanting anti-US and anti-Israel slogans, pelted stones at the embassy and tried to get into the building, but the guards prevented them from entering the premises.
Several protesters, carrying copies of the Koran on their heads, set US and Israel flags on fire as they chanted "Death to America! Death to Israel!", the photographer reported.
The Swiss embassy manages US interests in Iran since Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
© 2010 AFP