Wednesday, March 15, 2006

No prosecution of Jyllandsposten for blasphemy

The Danish attorney general has decided that there is no legal blasphemy case against Jyllandsposten for publishing the Mohammed cartoons (link here). Jyllandsposten has not violated the Danish blasphemy article. The attorney general thus confirms the ruling of the district attorney at the district court in Viborg, Jutland, Denmark.

The press release from the attorney general's office says:

The Decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the case of Jyllands-Posten's Article "The Face of Muhammed"
I have today decided not to institute criminal proceedings in the case of Jyllands-Posten's article "The Face of Muhammed", which was published on 30 September 2005 and where complaints were filed against Jyllands-Posten for violation of Sections 140 and 266 b of the Danish Criminal Code.
My decision is that there is no violation of the said rules of the Danish Criminal Code. My decision is published on the homepage of the Director of Public Prosecutions (
Although there is no basis for instituting criminal proceedings in this case, it should be noted that both provisions of the Danish Criminal Code contain a restriction of the freedom of expression. Section 140 of the Criminal Code protects religious feelings against mockery and scorn and Section 266 b protects groups of persons against scorn and degradation on account of their religion among other things. To the extent publicly made expressions fall within the scope of these rules there is, therefore, no free and unrestricted right to express opinions about religious subjects. It is thus not a correct description of existing law when the article in Jyllands-Posten states that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to demand special consideration for religious feelings and one has to be ready to put up with "scorn, mockery and ridicule".
My decision in the matter cannot be appealed to a higher administrative authority. This follows from Section 99(3) of the Danish Administration of Justice Act.
Henning Fode

The general attorney frees Jyllandsposten from prosecution, but he also notes that Jyllandsposten is not right about there being complete freedom of expression, that you can mock a person for religious sentiments in any way you like. The ruling cannot be appealed to a higher administrative authority. But the Minister for justice may decide to prosecute to see how far the blasphemy article carries in a courtroom. This night she (Lene Espersen) said she will not ask the public prosecutor to sue Jyllandsposten.

The case however, evolves very quickly now. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is really doing damage control now. They fear new riots in ME countries after the ruling. 40 ambassadors have been called to a meeting in the Ministry this evening, where the text has been read aloud to them. The Ministry hopes there will not be new embassy and flag burnings. This hope was reiterated by ministers in the government and other politicians in the parliament after a meeting this afternoon in the foreign affairs committee in parliament where the possible prospects of new demonstrations and rioting were discussed.


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