Danish cartoonist, editor: We're ready to face Jordan court

Arab World Materials 14 August 2008 15:02 (UTC +04:00)

The Danish cartoonist who drew caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed three years ago which sparked worldwide protests by Muslims and a boycott of Danish products said he was ready to defend himself in an Amman court, Jordanian media reported Thursday.

"I would like to go to Amman to stand trial. However, what I fear is that I would be convicted in advance," Kurt Westergaard told the Jordan Times in an interview that was conducted in Copenhagen earlier this week, dpa reported.

On June 3, Amman Prosecutor Hassan Abdullat subpoenaed Westergaard and 20 other Danish journalists and editors involved in the republication of the 12 controversial images that were originally published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed in April by a coalition of media outlets, professional syndicates and political parties.

The prosecutor's move was based on articles in the Jordanian penal code and the country's Press and Publication Law.

Westergaard said he had learnt that he had been subpoenaed by the Amman prosecutor, but that he had not been officially notified of the subpoena.

Asked about the rationale behind the pictures, the 73-year-old artist said, "I made the cartoons to highlight that there are some terrorists who misuse Islam and they take it as their spiritual ammunition."

"I wanted to depict the terrorists as if they were taking the Prophet Mohammed as a hostage. I have no problems with Islam but with the terrorists."

Westergaard described himself as an atheist and stressed his respect for Islam and all religions, but refused to apologize.

"I respect Islam and its followers and I have nothing against it. However, I will not apologize. We have freedom of the press and religion in Denmark," he said.

The Jordan Times also quoted Toger Seidenfaden, chief editor of the Danish daily Politiken, as saying that he was ready to face court in Jordan.

Seidenfaden said he had also not been officially informed of the summoning by the Danish authorities.

Politiken was among 17 Danish publications which reprinted the controversial images in February, igniting a new round of protest across the Islamic world.

Seidenfaden said that he was critical of the cartoons, because they were designed to "humiliate and provoke Muslims here in Denmark and abroad," but explained that reprinting them was part of normal coverage of important issues.

He pointed out that Danish newspapers had republished the cartoons about 16 times after the Danish police foiled an attempt to kill the cartoonist who drew them.

"We used them as a kind of documentation to show the public what we are talking about in the stories," Seidenfaden said.