x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Prophet cartoonist axe attacker guilty of terrorism

Mohammed Geele's bid to kill Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed was an act of terrorism, jury decides.

AARHUS, DENMARK // A court convicted a man of attempted terrorism and attempted murder yesterday for an axe attack on a Danish cartoonist who had caricatured the Prophet Mohammed.

The court in the central Danish town of Aarhus ruled that Mohammed Geele, a Danish man from Somalia, not only tried to kill Kurt Westergaard when he broke into his home on January 1, 2010, wielding an axe and a knife, but also that the attack amounted to an act of terrorism.

"The court deems that the attempted murder of Kurt Westergaard in his own home … must be considered as an attempt to instil a heightened level of fear in the population and to destabilise the structures of society," which falls under the Danish antiterrorism law, Judge Ingrid Thorsboe said.

The verdict was reached unanimously by the jury's eight members, she added.

The court is scheduled to rule on Geele's sentencing today. The Somali could face life in prison.

Mr Westergaard, 75, had testified during last month's trial that Geele rushed in screaming "You must die! You are going to Hell!", forcing the cartoonist to escape "certain death" by rushing into a bathroom-turned-panic room to call police.

Geele later threatened police with his axe and knife before being shot and wounded twice and placed under arrest.

Geele insisted during the trial that he was only trying to scare the cartoonist to get him to stop "dirtying" the Prophet Mohammed.

His lawyer argued he should not be found guilty of attempted terrorism because his client's attack was directed at one single person and not the entire population.

To illustrate his point, he had asked the jurors if they had been "frightened" the day they learnt of the attack.

Kirsten Dyrman, the prosecutor, stressed in her closing comments that the attack "aimed at creating enormous waves, chaos, and to sow fear among the population".

"It had repercussions not only in Denmark, but around the world. That is why he must be sentenced under the antiterrorism law," Ms Dyrman said.

The five-year-old daughter of a friend of Mr Westergaard was alone in the house with the cartoonist at the time of the attack.

Aarhus is home to the Jyllands-Posten daily that in 2005 first published Mr Westergaard's and other artists' controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Mr Westergaard has faced numerous death threats since the publication of his drawing, the most controversial of the 12 cartoons which appeared in Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005.

The drawings sparked protests across the Islamic world in early 2006.