British ex-soldier jailed for burning the Koran

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A British court on Monday jailed a former soldier for 70 days for burning a copy of the Koran.

Andrew Ryan, an unemployed 32-year-old, stole the copy of the Islamic holy book from a library and set it on fire with a cigarette lighter in front of a crowd in the northern English city of Carlisle.

Ryan, who pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated harassment and theft at an earlier hearing, was witnessed waving the burning book and shouting abuse about the Muslim faith.

Following his arrest shortly after the incident on January 19, Ryan told police: "I just hope I have not caused World War III."

Passing sentence, judge Gerald Chalk told him: "This is a case of theatrical bigotry.

"It was pre-planned by you as you stole the book deliberately. You went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress."

His defence lawyer Margaret Payne said Ryan, who served in the army from the age of 16 to 20, lost his temper after looking at "a website which had shown radical people burning poppies and abusing British troops returning from abroad."

Afghanistan has been rocked by deadly demonstrations in recent weeks in protest at the burning of the Koran by a US pastor last month.

At least 24 people, including seven UN staff, have been killed in the protests. The UN workers were killed in attack on their compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif by protesters.

© 2011 AFP

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