Dutch arrest suspect in threat over Prophet Mohammad cartoon contest

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch police have arrested a 26-year-old man suspected of threatening to attack far-right politician Geert Wilders over his plan to hold a contest of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

The man, whose nationality has not been determined, was taken into custody on Tuesday at Central Station in The Hague, spokesman Jan Rensen said.

He is believed to have posted a video on Facebook on Monday in which he said he was five minutes from the parliament building.

“Only that blasphemer (Wilders) is my target,” a man said in the video, which was shown on national broadcaster NOS. “I believe that God will help me succeed...they’re making jokes about our Prophet.”

Images of Prophet Mohammad are traditionally forbidden in Islam as idolatrous. Caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as highly offensive.

In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that sparked a wave of protest across the Muslim world and several attempts to kill either its editor or cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Ten years later, a pair of Islamists stormed the offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, known for publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet, and killed 12 people.

Wilders, whose far-right Freedom Party has become the Netherlands’ second-largest and pushes anti-Islam and populist themes, plans to hold his contest in his party’s office in the parliament building. He says it is his right to do so under the country’s freedom of speech laws.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said he does not endorse Wilder’s contest but that he will defend the parliamentarian’s right to hold it.

Wilders, who is appealing his 2016 conviction on charges of encouraging discrimination against Moroccans, said he was glad the man had been arrested.

“Crazy that this happens after announcing a cartoon contest,” he said on Twitter.

The suspect is due to be brought before a judge on Thursday, police said.

In Pakistan, several thousand people gathered in the eastern city of Lahore for a demonstration organized by Tehreek-e-Labbaik, an Islamist party, to protest against Wilders’ planned contest.

Party leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi called for the Dutch ambassador to Islamabad to be expelled.

Reporting by Toby Sterling, Additional reporting by Saad Sayeed in Islamabad, Editing by Angus MacSwan