MOHAMMED CARTOONS: DENMARK WILL NOT PROSECUTE THE NEWSPAPER
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C O N F I D E N T I A L COPENHAGEN 000336
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2016 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, PTER, DA, KDEM SUBJECT: MOHAMMED CARTOONS: DENMARK WILL NOT PROSECUTE THE NEWSPAPER
REF: A. COPENHAGEN 00286 B. COPENHAGEN 00207
Classified By: Sandra L. Kaiser, Deputy Chief of Mission. Reason 1.5 (B)
1. (C) Summary: Denmark´s Director of Public Prosecutions March 15 announced that he will not bring criminal blasphemy charges against the newspaper Jyllands-Posten for its September 2005 publication of the now-infamous 12 satirical cartoons depicting the "Face of Mohammed." Most Danish commentators and political parties offered support for the widely anticipated decision. However, the group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations that filed the original complaint expressed strong disappointment and announced they intend to pursue the case in the European Court of Human Rights. Danish officials are braced for a hostile reaction in the Muslim nations which, they worry, will not appreciate the concept of prosecutor with discretion to make independent legal judgments. End Summary.
2. (U) Senior Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry officials briefed the resident diplomatic corps on the March 15 decision by the public prosecutor not to bring criminal proceedings against the daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in connection with its publication of the controversial drawings of the prophet Mohammed in September 2005. Ambassador Ulrik Federspiel, Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, opened the briefing by underscoring that the prosecutor´s decision did not indicate a change in the view of the Danish government. He said Danes would never intentionally insult Muslims or any other religion. He also noted that Denmark will continue to try to rebuild bridges in the Muslim world and hopes to return to the friendly situation prior to the cartoon controversy. Federspiel noted that on 16 March the government would propose a number of Danish and EU cooperative initiatives which would enhance the relationship in the Middle East.
3. (U) Michael Lunn, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, followed with a technical legal explanation of the prosecutor´s decision not to bring charges under sections 140 and 266b of the Danish Criminal Code. Section 140 protects religious feelings against mockery and scorn and Section 266b protects groups of persons against scorn and degradation on account of their religion. Lunn noted that the prosecutor had reviewed the text of the accompanying article as well as each drawing individually and found no legal basis for proceeding with criminal charges in the case. The prosecutor characterized the cartoons not as an expression of mockery or scorn of the Islam but rather as a "contribution to the current debate on terror and as an expression that religious fanaticism has led to terrorist acts."
4. (U) Although the Minister of Justice has the right to order further investigation under section 98 of the Administration of Justice Act, Lunn carefully explained why the Minister would not be invoking that right in this case. He noted that traditionally the Justice Minister has only used Section 98 to direct the prosecutor to begin or reinvestigate a case when the matter was deemed to not have received a thorough investigation or new evidence was discovered. This rarely used provision, intended to prevent a miscarriage of justice, has only been used twice by Danish justice ministers in recent history.
5. (SBU) Public reaction to the prosecution´s decision varied widely in Denmark. No comments or questions were posed by members of the diplomatic corps during the closed briefing session. Most members of Danish political parties came out in support of the decision and with hope the country will find closure in the matter. The strongest reaction came from the group of 27 Muslim organizations who brought the original charges against Jyllands-Posten. The group´s spokesperson, Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, shared the organization´s disappointment and noted that they will now file a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
6. (C) Danish officials are concerned about reactions in the Muslim world to the public prosecutor´s decision. MFA International Law Dept Chief Thomas Winkler told Emboff March 16 that the government doubts the concept of a prosecutor exercising his discretion to make a legal judgment independent of political considerations will be well understood in Islamic capitals, much less on the Muslim street. Winkler said Danish embassies are braced for a hostile reaction following Friday prayers March 17. CAIN