COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Muslim group lost a libel case on Friday against the leader of a Danish anti-immigrant party who had accused its members of treason for publicizing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
A court ruled that Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of the Danish People’s Party (DPP), did not libel the Islamic Faith Community when she accused some of its members of treason for traveling to the Middle East to publicize a Danish newspaper’s publication of the drawings, which caused a worldwide uproar in 2006.
The court said the term “treason” was not libelous because it was used extensively in public debate. It ordered the plaintiffs, a loose network of Danish Muslim organizations which says it represents 50,000 members, to pay Kjaersgaard 40,000 Danish crowns ($7,400) in costs.
In September 2005, the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet which were later reprinted elsewhere and provoked outrage among Muslims.
Three Danish embassies were attacked and at least 50 people were killed in rioting in the Middle East and Asia. Most Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
“We are very disappointed with the verdict and are considering an appeal,” said Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim group. He added that the group would issue a fatwa, or religious edict, against Jyllands-Posten if it did not receive an apology from the paper.
“It’s too early to say any details of the fatwa,” Ahmad said. “The fatwa is the last step and will also satisfy Muslims in the Middle East.”
Kjaersgaard said she was relieved at the outcome but had expected to win.
“As a politician, I have both the duty and the right to express my opinion,” she said. “I am convinced that many Danes felt as I did in the hectic winter days of 2006.”
The DPP is not a member of the coalition government but supports it in parliament.