Egyptian Court Sentences Florida Pastor Terry Jones to Death

On Wednesday, an Egyptian court convicted Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida in absentia on charges linked to an anti-Islam film. The decision by the high court is largely seen as symbolic since Jones does not live in Egypt, but he's a dead man if he ever decides to step foot inside Egypt.

The Egyptian court convicted Jones in absentia and sentenced him to death in connection to a controversial anti-Islam film that incited deadly protests around the world in September. The court in Cairo also called for the death of seven Egyptian Coptic Christians who no longer live in the country, some of whom are linked to the film, including Mark Basseley Youssef, the man believed to be behind the film.

Jones, 61, first made headlines when he threatened to burn the Koran on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 back in 2010. A wave of protests convinced him to back down, but during March 2011 he finally decided to go through with it. Jones put the Islamic holy book on "trial" and set a copy on fire at his Dove World Outreach Center located in Gainesville, Florida.

Jones' public promotion of the amateur film "Innocence of Muslims", in which the prophet Muhammad is mocked and portrayed as a womanizer, made him a target once more. A top U.S. military officially even reportedly asked Jones to stop supporting the film.

According to Egypt's official news agency, the court found the defendants guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam, and spreading false information. These charges carry the death penalty.

In cases tried in absentia in Egypt, maximum sentences are common. Capital punishment decisions are then reviewed by the country's chief religious authority, who must either approve or reject the sentence. A final verdict is scheduled for January 29.

Jones says that the ruling "shows the true face of Islam", stating:

“We can speak out here in America. That freedom means that we criticize government leadership, religion even at times. Islam is not a religion that tolerates any type of criticism.”