[JURIST] The Netherlands Utrecht District Court on Thursday acquitted [decision, in Dutch; press release, in Dutch ] members of the Arab European League (AEL) of hate speech charges resulting from the posting a cartoon on their website that insinuated that the Holocaust was fabricated. The criminal complaint against the group alleged that the cartoon violated Article 137c of the Dutch Penal Code, which punishes individuals for making discriminatory and defamatory statements against certain groups. The AEL argued that they do not actually deny the historical facts of the Holocaust, but that the cartoon was posted to call attention to what they saw as a double standard in the distribution of Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed [JURIST news archive]. The court held that the cartoon was offensive, but that, in light an accompanying disclaimer and subsequent statements regarding its purpose, it was nevertheless protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]:
Although the cartoon, in the opinion of the court, is in very bad taste and very hurtful for Jews and others, the right to make this statement is ensured given its specific context and purpose. In light of the case as a whole, an infringement on that right in the form of a criminal conviction is not proportional to the objective to which it serves.
Prosecutors had sought for the court to consider the fact that Jewish groups were not involved in the creation or distribution of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, but the court refused.
The Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed were originally published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, leading to worldwide protests and lawsuits for those who reprinted the cartoons including suits in Yemen, France and Jordan [JURIST reports]. The Danish government did not press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the Danish newspaper that originally printed the articles. Last month, US citizen David Headley plead not guilty [JURIST report] to 12 counts of federal terrorism, including charges related to an alleged plot against the Danish creator and publishers of the controversial cartoons.