Danish Newspapers Reprint Controversial Muhammad Cartoon After Death Plot Foiled

Denmark's leading newspapers Wednesday reprinted a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered rioting in Muslim countries two years ago.

The newspapers said they republished the cartoon to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after the arrest Tuesday of three people accused of plotting to kill the man who drew the cartoon depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.

The drawing by Kurt Westergaard and 11 other cartoons depicting Muhammad enraged Muslims when they appeared in a range of Western newspapers in early 2006.

Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even a favorable one, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

The Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which first published the drawings on Sept. 30, 2005, reprinted Westergaard's cartoon in its paper edition Wednesday. Several other major dailies, including Politiken and Berlingske Tidende, also reprinted the drawing.

"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," said the Copenhagen-based Berlingske Tidende.

Tabloid Ekstra Bladet reprinted all 12 drawings.

At least three European newspapers — in Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain — also reprinted the cartoon as part of their coverage of the Danish arrests.

Intelligence police arrested two Tunisians and a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin in western Denmark on Tuesday for allegedly plotting to kill Westergaard.

The Danish suspect was released Tuesday after questioning, his lawyer Henning Lyngsbo said.

"He has no knowledge about the case," Lyngsbo told The Associated Press. "It doesn't seem that the evidence is very strong."

Intelligence service chief Jakob Scharf had indicated the man would be released, but could still face charges of violating a Danish terror law. The two Tunisians would be expelled from Denmark because they were considered threats to national security, Scharf said.

Danish Muslim leaders condemned the alleged murder plot, but also said reprinting Westergaard's cartoon was the wrong way to protest.

"There could have been other ways to do it without the drawing, which I personally do not like," Abdul Wahid Petersen, a moderate imam, told The Associated Press.

Imam Mostafa Chendid, the leader of the Islamic Faith Community, said his group was considering staging a rally in front of Parliament. The Copenhagen-based group spearheaded protests against the cartoons in 2006.

"We are so unhappy about the cartoon being reprinted," Chendid told the AP. "No blood was ever shed in Denmark because of this, and no blood will be shed. We are trying to calm down people, but let's see what happens. Let's open a dialogue."

Massive protests swept the Muslim world in early 2006 after publication of the cartoons. Danes watched in disbelief as angry mobs burned the Danish flag and attacked the country's embassies in Muslim countries including Syria, Iran and Lebanon. Danish products were boycotted in several Muslim countries.

The Danish Foreign Ministry said its diplomatic missions worldwide were monitoring for any unrest related to the cartoon.

"We have no information about events or reactions that leads us to change our security assessment for Danish citizens," said Uffe Wolffhechel of the ministry's consular department.