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Danish Court Tosses Suit Against Paper That First Published Prophet Cartoons

A Danish court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Muslim organizations against the newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that touched off protests in the Islamic world.

The City Court in Aarhus said it could not be ruled out that some Muslims had been offended by the 12 drawings printed in Jyllands-Posten, but said there was no reason to assume that the cartoons were meant to "belittle Muslims."

The newspaper published the cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005 with a text saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.

The caricatures were reprinted in European papers in January and February, fueling a fury of protests in the Islamic world. Some turned violent, with protesters killed in Libya and Afghanistan and several European embassies attacked.

Islamic law forbids any depiction of the prophet, even positive ones, to prevent idolatry.

"It cannot be ruled out that the drawings have offended some Muslims' honor, but there is no basis to assume that the drawings are, or were conceived as, insulting or that the purpose of the drawings was to present opinions that can belittle Muslims," the court said.

The seven Muslim groups filed the defamation lawsuit against the paper in March, after Denmark's top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

The plaintiffs, who claimed to have the backing of 20 more Islamic organizations in the Scandinavian country, had sought $16,860 in damages from Jyllands-Posten Editor in Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.

The lawsuit said the cartoons depict Muhammad "as belligerent, oppressing women, criminal, crazy and unintelligent, and a connection is made between the Prophet and war and terror."

It said the drawings were published "solely to provoke and mock not only the Prophet Muhammad but also the Muslim population."