Denmark: Danish Newspaper Won’t Face Charges Over Cartoons

A Danish newspaper will not face criminal charges over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that prompted international protests by Muslims, the country’s public prosecutor said. The drawings of Muhammad, an article and other cartoons published last September by Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s biggest broadsheet, were neither “scornful” nor “degrading” of Muslims as a group and the newspaper can’t be prosecuted under the criminal code, Director of Public Prosecutions Henning Fode said in a statement issued yesterday. “The drawings that must be assumed to be pictures of Muhammad depict a religious figure and none of them can be considered to be meant to refer to Muslims in general,” the prosecutor said. There was no basis for assuming that the intention of one of the drawings, which depicted Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, was “to depict Muslims in general as perpetrators of violence or even as terrorists.” The drawings sparked protests in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia, and a boycott of Danish goods. Fode’s decision reaffirms a Jan. 6 ruling by a prosecutor in the city of Viborg who received a complaint against the newspaper. A number of organizations and individuals appealed the local prosecutor’s ruling, Fode said in the statement. Jyllands-Posten said the cartoons were published as a reaction to comments made by a Danish illustrator, who said he was afraid to draw the prophet for a children’s book as he feared he would become the target of threats by militants. The newspaper apologized for offending Muslims. `Scorn, Mockery, Ridicule’ The cartoons were reprinted by news media in Europe, and in other parts of the world including Egypt. While there’s no basis for prosecution in the case, Fode said, it’s “not a correct description of existing law when the article in Jyllands-Posten states that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to demand a special consideration for religious feelings and that one has to be ready to put up with `scorn, mockery and ridicule’.” The decision can not be appealed further in Denmark, Fode said. Some 27 organizations and individuals appealed the original decision, including the Islamiske Trossamfund, an umbrella group for Muslim associations in Denmark, Copenhagen-based daily Politiken said today. “The lawyers that evaluated the case had no knowledge of Islam and its religious symbols,” Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the group, told the newspaper. “It’s slipshod,” he said, referring to the DPP’s decision. The groups may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the newspaper reported.