16 maart 2006

Danish Public Prosecutor Rejects Charging Newspaper for Muhammad Cartoons (Law & Justice)

Denmark's Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to press criminal charges against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the twelve cartoons (see them here, halfway down the page). He upheld the earlier decision of a regional prosecutor who maintained the drawings were protected by the legislation on freedom of speech and did not violate bans on racist and blasphemous speech. The press release (in English) and the full ruling (in English) are already available on line (pdf).

The public prosecutor says that his decision is "that there is no violation of the Danish Criminal Code. Although there is no basis for instituting criminal proceedings in this case, it should be noted that both provisions of the Danish Criminal Code contain a restriction of the freedom of expression. Section 140 of the Criminal Code protects religious feelings against mockery and scorn and Section 266 b protects groups of persons against scorn and degradation on account of their religion among other things. To the extent publicly made expressions fall within the scope of these rules there is, therefore, no free and unrestricted right to express opinions about religious subjects. It is thus 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 special consideration for religious feelings and one has to be ready to put up with "scorn, mockery and ridicule". "

"I hope that all critical Muslims read the ruling in full, because it states very clearly what freedom of expression in Denmark is about," the public prosecutor told The Associated Press.

Many Muslim organizations and individuals have expressed their disapproval of the decision. The Islamic Faith Community says it considers taking the issue to the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights has already received another application from French Muslims asking it to declare the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in French newspapers an infringement of the non-discrimination provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Danish Foreign Ministry has again issued travel warnings for Muslim countries because it fears negative reactions towards Danes abroad.

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