Evangelical preacher appearing in court after he branded Islam ‘satanic’ and ‘heathen’
Hundreds have turned out to support an evangelical preacher who has appeared in court after he branded Islam ‘satanic’ and ‘heathen’.
Pastor James McConnell, 78, from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, was at Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged over comments he made in a controversial sermon, which was streamed online last year.
The brief hearing had to be accommodated in one of the largest court rooms after scores of people turned up.
The pensioner, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and purple tie, did not enter the dock. Instead, he sat in the public gallery beside his wife Margaret, supported by friends and other family members.
Afterwards, amid cheers, applause and hymn singing he told supporters who had filled the court corridor: ‘I believe, for the prosecution, this is a hot potato. They don’t know how to handle it. They are miserable.
‘I am looking forward to testifying if they give me a chance. Either they try me and put me in prison or I am free to preach the gospel.’
North Belfast Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds stood at the back of the court throughout proceedings.
Outside, Christian supporters were joined by the DUP’s East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson and North Belfast MLA William Humphrey.
The large crowd, some of whom were carrying banners and placards which read ‘We support Pastor McConnell’ and ‘Evil Sharia law is not welcome in our country’, cheered and sang hymns.
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