Denmark adds terrorism charge to cartoonist attack

COPENHAGEN Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:33am EST

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard poses in Aarhus in this September 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Preben Hupfeld/Scanpix

Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard poses in Aarhus in this September 2006 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Preben Hupfeld/Scanpix

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish prosecutors have added a terrorism charge to two charges of attempted murder against a Somali man who broke into the home of a cartoonist whose 2005 drawing of the Prophet Mohammad sparked global Muslim outrage.

The 28-year-old man, who police have said has links to al Qaeda and other militant organizations, was charged with attempting to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and a police officer on January 1 in the town of Aarhus.

Marian Thomsen, chief prosecutor with the East Jutland Police, said the charges were expanded "because trying to kill Kurt Westergaard had a bigger purpose than just killing him."

She declined to elaborate on the new charge which she said has yet to be put before a court.

Under Danish law, certain crimes can bring penalties of up to life in prison if they are deemed to be carried out with the intention of terrorism. The attempted murder charges alone would not lead to such a severe sentence.

The man, whose name has not been released, broke into Westergaard's home armed with an axe and a knife 10 days ago, but the illustrator fled to a safe room and was unhurt.

Police who responded to an alarm shot and wounded the man in the leg and hand and then arrested him after he threw the axe but narrowly missed one officer, police have said.

The man has denied the charges of attempted murder but has not denied being at Westergaard's home.

His attorney, Niels Christian Strauss, could not be reached immediately but he told Danish news agency Ritzau that he would not comment on the terrorism charge.

Danish police intelligence have accused the man of having links with al Qaeda and with Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group and have called the break-in at Westergaard's home a "terror-related" assassination attempt.

Westergaard's 2005 picture of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban was one of 11 caricatures that infuriated many Muslims and led to death threats.

Most Muslims consider any depiction of Mohammad as offensive, and when other newspapers reprinted the caricatures in 2006 it triggered violence in several countries.

(Editing by Dominic Evans)

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