Police arrested six people on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after a recording of what appeared to be Korans being burned appeared on the internet, a force spokesman said today.
Officers detained two men on September 15 and four more yesterday and all six were bailed pending further inquiries, Northumbria Police said.
“The arrests followed the burning of what are believed to have been two Korans in Gateshead on September 11,” the spokesman said.
“The incident was recorded and a video placed on the internet.”
In a video still accessible on Youtube, six young men in hooded tops or wearing scarves over their faces can be seen pouring petrol on a book and setting it alight, before burning another.
On the video, which appeared to have been filmed behind a pub, they cheer as the first book bursts into flames.
Northumbria Police said the men were not arrested for watching or distributing the video, but on suspicion of burning the Koran.
Gateshead Council and the force issued a joint statement to stress that community relations in the area were good.
It said: “The kind of behaviour displayed in this video is not at all representative of our community as a whole.
“Our community is one of mutual respect and we continue to work together with community leaders, residents and people of all faiths and beliefs to maintain good community relations.”
The men may have been copying Florida-based Pastor Terry Jones, who caused an international outcry by threatening to burn the holy book on September 11, although he did not go ahead with the plan.