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MOHAMMED CARTOON CONTROVERSY RESURFACES

More than a dozen Danish newspapers last week reprinted a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed that caused worldwide controversy in 2006, in protest at a newly discovered plot to kill the cartoonist, according to Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and news reports.

The papers said they wanted to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after last week's arrest in western Denmark of three people accused of plotting to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

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

Westergaard's cartoon, featuring the founder of Islam with a bomb in his turban, was considered the most controversial of 12 cartoons originally published in the Danish paper "Jyllands-Posten" in September 2005.

International furore erupted when the cartoons, considered blasphemous by many Muslims, were reprinted in various newspapers worldwide in 2006. CRNI says more than 100 people were killed in the subsequent rioting.

According to news reports, Danish Muslims say they are seeking to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the original publication, and feel the Danish papers are seeking to rekindle the fiery debate over free speech and Islam.

"Jyllands-Posten" told CRNI, "The murder plot is part of a worldwide campaign by those who want to limit the right to free speech, and among them the UN Human Rights Council that last year passed a resolution calling for the criminalisation of cartoons like the one made by Kurt Westergaard. This is a disgrace for the UN."

A Danish citizen of Moroccan descent and two Tunisians were arrested on 12 February for their involvement in the "terror-related assassination" plot.

Visit these links:
- CRNI: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90719/
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/38arud
- Reuters via ABC News: http://tinyurl.com/2rg4jn
- Radio Netherlands on Iran's stance: http://tinyurl.com/2r8rsv
(19 February 2008)

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