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Belarus newspaper editor sentenced to 3 years for reprinting Muhammad cartoons

[JURIST] A Belarus court on Friday sentenced a former newspaper editor to three years in prison for reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive]. Alexander Sdvizhkov was the deputy editor of Zhoda, a small Belarus newspaper, when in February 2006 it republished the cartoons that had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and sparked protests in Muslim countries throughout the world. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] ordered the paper shut down immediately following the incident, and Sdvizhkov was arrested and charged with "inciting religious hatred" in November 2007. In a statement Friday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [official website] criticized the court's handling of the closed door trial and demanded Sdvizhkov's release [press release]. AP has more.

Reproduction of the cartoons has resulted in a number of international lawsuits and arrests alleging defamation of character and disruption of the peace. A French court in March 2007 dismissed charges [JURIST report] against Charlie-Hebdo magazine and its director after the court found that the defendants had not purposely meant to offend Muslims. In September, Bangladeshi authorities arrested [JURIST report] cartoonist Arifur Rahman and suspended the publication of weekly satire magazine Alpin after it reprinted the cartoon.

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