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Denmark prosecutors add terrorism charge in Muhammad cartoonist attempted killing

[JURIST] Danish prosecutors on Monday brought an additional charge of terrorism against the Somali man already charged with the attempted murders of Kurt Westergaard, illustrator of the controversial 2005 cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] as a suicide bomber, and a police officer. The man, who remains unnamed, is said to have broken into Westergaard's home with an axe and a knife, in what is believed to be an assassination attempt [Reuters report]. Police on the scene shot and wounded the man and arrested him after he threw the axe, narrowly missing an officer. Westergaard remained unharmed. Denmark's police intelligence suggest the attempted murder was terror-related and claim the man has ties [Times report] to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] and the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder]. Danish law permits certain crimes carried out with the intent of terrorism to carry a penalty of life in prison. The terrorism charge is yet to be heard by a court. The man has denied the charges of attempted murder.

Westergaard's 2005 picture of the Muhammad was one of a series of caricatures published by a Danish newspaper that infuriated Muslims around the world. Many Muslims consider depictions of Muhammad offensive, and when other newspapers reprinted the caricatures in 2006 it triggered violence in several countries, leading to multiple deaths, the burning of Danish embassy buildings [JURIST reports], and boycotts of Danish goods. In 2006, a Danish court dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by Muslim organizations against the two editors of the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of Muhammad. The plaintiffs sued Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose for defamation and sought more than $16,000 in damages. The City Court in Aerhus held that while some Muslims may have been offended by the cartoons, there was no reason to believe the editors intended to "belittle Muslims."

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