Early Tuesday morning, Danish police arrested several people with a Muslim background suspected of conspiring to kill Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist with Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.
A formal statement by the police setting out details of the action is expected within the next few hours.
Kurt Westergaard is one of the 12 cartoonists who on 30 September 2005 published cartoons of Muslim prophet Mohammed.
The group arrested includes Danish as well as foreign citizens. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service have followed the group for months.
The cartoons and an explanatory article led, as is well known, to the so-called Mohammed crisis involving violent demonstrations, the boycott of Danish goods and the burning of Danish embassies.
Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon depicting the prophet wearing a bomb turban with a lit fuse attracted particular attention. What the cartoonist wanted to say with his cartoon was that many people exploit the prophet to legitimize terror. However, the cartoon was widely seen as a depiction of the prophet as a terrorist.
Statement by Carsten Juste, Editor-in-Chief of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, overall content responsibility under Danish media laws:
“Deeply worried and for several months, the management of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten have followed the discreet efforts by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service to protect Kurt Westergaard from concrete murder threats. The arrests have hopefully thwarted the murder plans. We sympathize with Kurt Westergaard and his family who are forced to live under unreasonable pressure. It is appalling that as a reward a man who to the best of his ability goes about his work and carries it out in accordance with Danish law, the Danish media ethics code and Danish media traditions was demonized and had his life threatened. We are grateful to the Danish authorities for protecting our colleague competently and professionally.”
Statement by cartoonist Kurt Westergaard:
“Of course I fear for my life after the Danish Security and Intelligence Service informed me of the concrete plans of certain people to kill me. However, I have turned fear into anger and indignation. It has made me angry that a perfectly normal everyday activity which I used to do by the thousand was abused to set off such madness. I have attended to my work and I still do. I could not possibly know for how long I have to live under police protection; I think, however, that the impact of the insane response to my cartoon will last for the rest of my life. It is sad indeed, but it has become a fact of my life. ”