Denmark starts cartoon attack trial

Somali man charged with attempted murder says he just wanted 'to scare' cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Muhammad.

    Westergaard's 2005 caricature of Prophet Mohammed stirred anger in the Muslim world [EPA]

    A Somali man charged with trying to kill a Dane who caricatured Prophet Mohammad has appeared in court, saying he was only trying to scare the cartoonist.

    The 29-year-old defendant, who used an axe to force his way into the home of Kurt Westergaard on New Years Day last year, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder on the first day of his trial on Wednesday.

    "I was irritated and frustrated by his comments. I wanted to frighten him but not to kill him," he told a packed court in the central Danish town of Arhus.

    The man was also charged with attempted murder for throwing the axe at police when they confronted him. He could face life in prison if found guilty on all counts: attempted terrorism, attempted murder, attacking a police officer and illegal arms possession.

    The defendant, who Danish intelligence police say is linked to the Somali movement al-Shabab, insisted he had "bought the axe to help a friend cut down a tree".

    "But I brought it with me to Arhus because I was very angry with [Westergaard] and wanted to break down his door to talk with him," he said.

    'Very violent'

    Westergaard locked himself inside a panic room and was unharmed in the attack.

    At the opening of the trial, prosecutor Kristen Dyrman played recordings of Westergaard's two calls to police during the break-in for the nine jury members.

    "He is breaking down the door! It's very violent. You must come immediately," the cartoonist screamed, insisting: "You must come now or I won't survive. He is going to kill me!"

    When police arrived, the man came out wielding his axe and a knife. He was shot twice and placed under arrest.

    The Somali has a residence permit in Denmark where he has lived since 1996.

    The prosecutor said the Danish intelligence agency started monitoring him by mid-2009 because of his frequent trips to Somalia where he claimed he was involved in "humanitarian aid projects."

    Westergaard has faced numerous death threats since the publication of his drawing of the Prophet Mohammad wearing a turban-shaped bomb with a lit fuse.

    It appeared in the Jyllands-Posten daily on September 30, 2005 along with 11 other cartoons of the Muslim prophet, and sparked angry and even deadly protests across the Islamic world in early 2006.

    The trial is set to last for nine days and the verdict is expected around the first week of February.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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