COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark's top prosecutor said Wednesday he will not press charges against the newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad drawings that triggered deadly protests by Muslims worldwide.
The prosecutor's ruling prompted the Foreign Ministry to upgrade its travel warnings for Muslim countries from Algeria to Malaysia.
"The decision may cause negative reactions to Danes and Danish interests abroad," the ministry said. "With that background, Danes should be particularly cautious when traveling."
Director of Public Prosecutions Henning Fode upheld the decision of a regional prosecutor, who said the drawings published in Jyllands-Posten on Sept. 30 did not violate Danish law. Fode's decision cannot be appealed.
His ruling said the 12 cartoons did not violate bans on racist and blasphemous speech.
"My decision is that there is no violation of the said rules of the Danish Criminal Code," Fode said in a statement.
But Fode's ruling also noted there was "no free and unrestricted right to express opinions about religious subjects" in Denmark. He said Jyllands-Posten had thus been wrong in writing that religious groups had to be ready to put up with "scorn, mockery and ridicule."
One of the cartoons that depicted Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb "may with good reason be understood as an affront and insult to the Prophet, who is an ideal for believing Muslims," Fode said.
"However, such a depiction is not an expression of mockery or ridicule, and hardly scorn within the meaning of" Danish law.
A regional prosecutor ruled Jan. 7 that the drawings were protected by freedom of speech laws and did not violate bans on racism and blasphemy. A group of Danish Muslims said at the time they would appeal the ruling to the top prosecutor.
Fode's office said it had received several appeals by organizations and individuals unhappy with the regional prosecutor's decision.
One of those groups, the Islamic Faith Community, said it was disappointed in Fode's ruling and would consider raising the issue with The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
"This can only damage Denmark on an international level," Kasem Said, a group spokesman, said of the ruling.
The community is part of a network of 27 Danish Islamic organizations that turned to Muslim countries for help in the conflict. Many Danes blame them for escalating the crisis, which erupted in protests around the Muslim world.
Jyllands-Posten has apologized for offending Muslims but stood by its decision to publish the cartoons, citing the protections of freedom of speech.
Jyllands-Posten editor-in-chief Carsten Juste called the ruling "satisfactory."
"I hope that all critical Muslims read the ruling in full, because it states very clearly what freedom of expression in Denmark is about," Juste told The Associated Press.
The cartoons, which were reprinted in European and American papers in January and February, sparked a wave of protests around the Islamic world. Protesters were killed in some of the most violent demonstrations and several European embassies were attacked.
A boycott on Danish goods started in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 26 and spread to dozens of Muslim countries.