Denmark tries Somali accused of cartoonist attack

Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:36pm GMT
 

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Somali man went on trial in a Danish court Wednesday charged with attempted manslaughter and terrorism after attacking the home of the cartoonist whose 2005 drawing of the Prophet Mohammad stirred global Muslim outrage.

The 29-year-old man is accused of breaking into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard with an axe on New Year's day last year, which prosecutors said was an attempted act of terrorism -- a charge that could bring a life sentence.

The man is also charged with trying to kill a police officer by throwing the axe at him when police rushed to Westergaard's home to detain the attacker, a police official said.

The man pleaded not guilty to the terrorism and attempted manslaughter charges but admitted to breaking into the house and assaulting a police officer, officials said.

He told the court he was only trying to frighten Westergaard, 75, who escaped to a safe room in his home and was unhurt. A verdict is expected around February 4.

Prosecutors at the opening session of the trial in the town of Arhus played recordings of Westergaard's calls to police from his panic room and surveillance footage showing the man smashing through the patio door of the house with his axe.

Westergaard's drawing of the Prophet wearing a turban resembling a bomb with a lit fuse was one of 12 cartoons lampooning Islam that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published in September 2005.

Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam offensive, and when other newspapers reprinted the caricatures in 2006, this triggered violent protests in several countries, leading to at least 50 deaths.

Westergaard has lived for years under police protection following numerous threats against him and the paper.

Three weeks ago, police in Denmark and Sweden detained five men suspected of planning a terrorism attack on a Copenhagen building housing the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to "kill as many as possible" and linking the plot directly to the Mohammad cartoons.

(Reporting by Mette Fraende)

<p>Police vehicles are seen outside Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's home in eastern Juttland, Denmark January 1, 2010. A Somali man armed with an axe and suspected of links with al Qaeda broke into the home of Westergaard whose drawings of the Prophet Mohammad caused global Muslim outrage and was shot and wounded by police. REUTERS/Brian Rasmussen/Scanpix</p>
 
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