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Public prosecutor files charges against Danish cartoonist, 10 Danish newspaper editors over prophet cartoons

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 20 June 2008 IPI letter to the Jordanian justice minister:

H.E. Ayman Odeh
Minister of Justice
Amman - Jordan
PER FACSIMILE
(+962) 6 4643197

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, would like to express its concern at a Jordanian public prosecutor's decision to file charges against Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew one of the controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, as well as ten newspaper editors who republished them.

According to information before IPI, Public Prosecutor Hassan Abdullat has summoned the eleven Danes to answer charges of blasphemy and threatening national peace under the Jordanian Justice Act of 2006, which permits Jordanian officials to pursue non-domestic crimes where these affect Jordanian citizens by electronic means.

The charges were based at least in part on lobbying efforts by a Jordanian organisation called "The Prophet Unites Us". The organisation's lawyer, Osama Al Bettar, has indicated that if the Danes failed to appear before the Jordanian court, the next step would be to inform Interpol and seek their arrest. However, the Danish Foreign Ministry has ruled out the possibility of forcible deportation, given that the printing and publishing of the cartoons was not a punishable offence in Denmark.

IPI understands that many may find the cartoons at issue to be offensive. However, IPI believes strongly that deciding whether or not to publish material, including cartoons, should be left to editors, not prosecutors. Moreover, nothing justifies the continued persecution of the cartoonist, who was forced to live in hiding due to the violent threats issued against him. Pursuing legal charges sets a dangerous precedent and may be misunderstood as an endorsement of these threats, therefore reinforcing the belief of a minority that freedom of the press may be suppressed by violence. IPI therefore urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that these proceedings are discontinued.

Yours sincerely,

David Dadge
Director

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