COPENHAGEN – Prosecutors filed a preliminary charge of terrorism Monday against a Somali man accused of trying to kill a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The man had faced a preliminary charge of attempted murder for breaking into Kurt Westergaard's home in Aarhus, in western Denmark, Jan. 1 armed with a knife and an ax.
Prosecutor Marian Thomsen said investigators changed the preliminary charge to terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, after questioning the suspect over the weekend for the first time since his arrest.
Westergaard, 74, locked himself in a safe room and was not injured. The suspect was shot by police in the hand and knee, but was not seriously injured and is being held in jail pending the outcome of the investigation.
The man, who cannot be named under a court order, also faces preliminary charges of attempted murder of a police officer, assaulting another officer and breaking Denmark's weapons law.
The suspect claims he only wanted to scare Westergaard and has denied all the allegations except the weapons charge, according to his lawyer, Niels Christian Strauss.
Denmark's intelligence agency has said the suspect, who has a residence permit in Denmark, is linked to the Somali militant group al-Shabab and to al-Qaida leaders in eastern Africa. A spokesman in Somalia for al-Shabab denied the man was member of the group.
In Kenya, police have confirmed that the suspect was on a terror watch list and was briefly detained there before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's visit in August.
Westergaard has faced a series of death threats over his drawing of Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, which was considered the most provocative of 12 Danish cartoons of Muhammad that sparked an uproar in Muslim countries in 2006. He has lived under police protection since February 2008.
In October, terrorism charges were brought against two Chicago men who allegedly planned to kill Westergaard and a Danish newspaper's former cultural editor. That trial has not yet begun.