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Danish paper acquitted in cartoon libel trial
Thu Oct 26, 8:29 AM ET
A Danish court on Thursday acquitted daily Jyllands-Posten in a civil case brought by Muslim organizations that accused it of slander for printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that triggered widespread Muslim anger.

A court official told Reuters that the Aarhus municipal court found in favor of Jyllands-Posten and ordered the seven Danish Muslim organizations who sued it to pay the paper's court expenses.

The plaintiffs have appealed to a higher court.

"Anything but a clear acquittal would have been a catastrophe for freedom of the press and the media's ability to fulfill its role in a democratic society," Jyllands-Posten editor Carsten Juste said on the paper's Web site. "You can think what you want about the cartoons, but the newspaper's unassailable right to print them has been set by both the country's prosecutors and the court system."

The ruling said that some of the cartoons do not depict the Prophet or have a religious subject, while others fall outside of the scope of slander laws.

The court did find that three of the cartoons, including one that depicted the Prophet with a bomb in its turban, did not clearly fall outside of what the law could deem as insulting.

"Of course it cannot be excluded that the drawings offended some Muslims," the court said in its ruling. "But there is no sufficient reason to assume that the cartoons are or were intended to be insulting... or put forward ideas that could hurt the standing of Muslims in society."

The 12 drawings, first published in September last year in Denmark and then reprinted elsewhere, provoked a storm of protests among Muslims, many of whom believe any Mohammad depictions are blasphemous. At least 50 people were killed in riots in the Middle East and Asia. Three Danish embassies were attacked and many Muslims boycotted Danish goods.

In March, Danish prosecutors declined to press charges against the newspaper under Danish blasphemy and anti-racism laws.

In the civil suit, the Muslim organizations accused Jyllands-Posten, Juste and culture page editor Flemming Rose of slander against Muslims for having published the cartoons.

Had they been convicted, they could have faced prison for up to four months.
Thursday, October 26, 2006 :: ::
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